Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness

What Does Being Ill Have To Do With Mental Health?

Serious illness can cause tremendous life changes and limit your mobility and independence. A chronic illness can make it impossible to do the things you enjoy, and it can eat away at your self-confidence and a sense of hope in the future. No surprise, then, that people with chronic illness often feel despair and sadness. In some cases, the physical effects of the condition itself or the side effects of medication lead to depression, too.

Who Would This Effect? 

Although any illness can trigger depressed feelings, the risk of chronic illness and depression gets higher with the severity of the illness and the level of life disruption it causes. The risk of depression is generally 10-25% for women and 5-12% for men. However, people with a chronic illness face a much higher risk — between 25-33%. Risk is especially high in someone who has a history of depression.

  • Heart attack: 40%-65% experience depression
  • Coronary artery disease (without heart attack): 18%-20% experience depression
  • Parkinson’s disease: 40% experience depression
  • Multiple sclerosis: 40% experience depression
  • Stroke: 10%-27% experience depression
  • Cancer: 25% experience depression
  • Diabetes: 25% experience depression
  • Chronic pain syndrome: 30%-54% experience depression

Everyone is susceptible to the effects of stress. However, living with a long-term condition can make you particularly vulnerable. In addition to the everyday challenges that most people face, chronic illness adds new layers of stressors. For example, you may need to:

  • cope with pain or discomfort from your symptoms
  • take steps to manage your condition and practice self-care
  • adjust to new limitations that your condition puts on your life
  • manage increased financial pressures
  • cope with feelings of frustration, confusion, or isolation

You can take steps to maximize your quality of life and minimize the challenges of living with a long-term illness. Use the following strategies to help you cope and regain control.

The all-encompassing nature of chronic illness, and the ways it disrupts your life and plans, can elicit a wide range of emotions. These responses may include:

  • stress
  • grief
  • rage
  • fear
  • depression
  • anxiety

Experiment with different ways of managing stress and painful emotions. When you find a technique that works, incorporate it into your daily or weekly routine. Some ideas include:

  • exercising
  • stretching
  • listening to music
  • deep breathing
  • meditation
  • writing in a journal
  • cooking
  • reading
  • spending quality time with family and friends

It may help to schedule time in your calendar for regular breaks and self-care. Let NewPath be a part of this self-care. You are worth it.
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