Coping With Chronic Illness

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 14, 2023
2 min read

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 is different. A chronic illness may never go away and can disrupt your lifestyle in many ways.

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

Chronic illness 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. For the homemaker, a specific task 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 the illness is not the only one affected. Family members are also influenced by the changes in the health of a loved one.

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

A mental-health care provider can design a treatment plan to meet your specific needs. Strategies can be designed to help you regain a sense of control over life and improve your quality of life, something everyone deserves. At times, if depression is present, medications other than those treating the physical illness may be ordered to help lift your mood.

There are many types of help available for people with chronic illnesses. Among them are support groups and individual counseling.

Support groups provide an environment where you can learn new ways of dealing with illness. You may want to share approaches you have discovered with others. You will also gain strength in knowing that you are not facing hardships alone.

Sometimes people have problems that are better addressed in a one-on-one atmosphere. By participating in individual counseling, you may more effectively express sensitive or private feelings you have about your illness and its impact on your lifestyle and relationships.