Chronic medical conditions can put a severe strain on a patient’s mental health, sometimes resulting in major depression. Beyond that, the trials of dealing with an ongoing illness can strain families, relationships, and finances, all leading to increased stress and anxiety.
Coping with a long-term medical condition can bring a new set of mental health challenges.
Not only do these stressors add an additional level of unhappiness to a patient’s life, they can actually contribute to the development of the condition that started it all. Just as poor medical health can have a negative impact on one’s mental health, so can poor mental health can negatively affect one’s physical well-being. Anxiety and depression can weaken the immune system and inhibit helpful physical activity.
Frustratingly, this seems like a cycle that’s impossible to break free from. But just as it’s important to attend regular visits with one’s physical healthcare provider to treat the progression of a medical condition, it’s also vital to one’s overall well-being to seek regular treatment with a psychologist.
What exacerbates the stress of an ongoing medical condition?
Frequent hospitalizations can increase stress and anxiety in the chronically ill patient.
Financial stressors – Treating a chronic illness often causes considerable financial strain on a person’s individual or family finances. Frequent hospital stays or doctor visits, prescription drugs, and the cost of in-home care all take a monetary toll. That toll in turn leads to stress as the family or individual tries to keep up with the various bills.
Fatigue – Many types of chronic medical conditions cause serious fatigue in the patients. Whether from medication side effects, an over-taxed immune system, or a symptom of the disease itself, consistent fatigue is common. This often leads to irritability and sometimes even feelings of hopelessness, as the possibility of a good night’s sleep seems unattainable.
Chronic Pain – Another common element in many long-term illnesses is chronic pain. Often a symptom of the illness, chronic pain can lead to fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, and reclusiveness.
Feelings of Unworthiness – Often if someone is dealing with a chronic illness that incapacitates them in some way, they may begin to feel ashamed of the ‘fuss’ they’re causing, or unworthy of the attention their illness brings them. This is especially true within relationships, where the responsibilities once shared by both partners all fall on the shoulders of the one who is still well.
Facing Mortality – Sometimes the illness one faces has the potential to be fatal, and the patient must face the fact that they may not survive. It goes without saying that this can be a frightening and isolating experience, which can sometimes lead to a depressive state.
A psychologist can help offer you the mental and emotional support you need.
What can psychotherapy offer?
Because so many of the challenges of coping with a medical condition can be psychological in nature, psychotherapy has a great deal to offer anyone suffering from a chronic or terminal illness. A psychologist can help you to processes the overwhelming volume of different emotions you’re facing during this period of your life, as well as provide you with the tools you need to communicate your feelings to your family members. They can also help you to regain a sense of control over your life in the face of uncertainty and loss of independence.
If you’re ready to see a psychologist who can help you come up with actionable steps on how to deal with a medical condition, contact me today.