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Coping Strategies for Arthritis

When you get an illness such as bronchitis or the flu, you know you will be feeling better and functioning normally within a week or so. A chronic illness like arthritis is different. Such conditions may never go away and can disrupt your lifestyle in many ways.

Effects of Arthritis

If you have arthritis, pain and fatigue may become a frequent part of your day. Physical changes from arthritis may affect your appearance. These changes can diminish your self-image. When you don't feel good about yourself, you may prefer isolation and withdraw from friends and social activities.

Arthritis also can influence your ability to function at work. Morning stiffness, decreased range of motion, and other physical limitations may require you to modify your work activities and environment. Decreased ability to work can lead to financial difficulties. Tasks and chores at home may take much longer to accomplish. You may need the help of your spouse, a relative, or a home health care provider. As your life changes, you may feel a loss of control and become anxious about the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

Stress can build and influence how you feel about life. Prolonged stress can lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and, at times, depression. The person with arthritis is not the only one affected. Family members are also influenced by the changes in the health of a loved one.

Making Life Better if You Have Arthritis

The most important step you can take is to seek help as soon as you feel less able to cope with arthritis. Taking action early will enable you to understand and deal with the many effects of your condition. Learning to manage stress will help you maintain a positive physical, emotional, and spiritual outlook on life.

A mental health professional can design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control and improve your quality of life, something everyone deserves. If you are diagnosed with depression, medication might be suggested.

Other types of help available are support groups and individual counseling. Support groups provide an environment where you can learn new ways of dealing with your illness and share personal strategies for coping with your arthritis. You may also gain strength in knowing that you are not facing hardships alone. For more information about support groups for people with arthritis, go to www.arthritistoday.org.

Individual counseling is more suitable for those who prefer a more private setting in which to deal with the feelings that arise from having a chronic, and sometimes debilitating, illness.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 01, 2012

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