How Chronic Illness Affects Mental Health

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How Chronic Illness Affects Mental HealthChronic illnesses are those that are long lasting and persistent. They can take many forms, but some of the most common chronic illnesses include the following:

  • AIDS
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease

These illnesses and many other chronic conditions can have a profound effect on a person’s life and affect how he or she acts, thinks and feels. Managing a chronic illness involves coping with and addressing symptoms and learning how to stay healthy mentally and physically.

The Mental Health Effects of Chronic Illnesses

Even mild conditions can impact daily life and mental health, as the American Psychological Association (APA) reveals that “patients suffering from chronic tension headaches experienced diminished performance in their jobs and social functioning, and were three to fifteen times more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety or mood disorder.” Fear, uncertainty and concern about symptoms and the future leads to feelings of depression and anxiety in many individuals with chronic illnesses. Physical limitations related to certain chronic illnesses can also lead to depression.

Learning the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety can help you find support at the first signs of co-occurring mental and physical issues. The APA also states that “the highest risk of depressive symptoms occurred within the first two years” of a chronic illness. Knowing that you may face difficult or dark moods and mental states can help you prepare for them and develop healthy coping skills such as talking with loved ones and professionals or finding healthy outlets for emotions through journaling or other activities. Unaddressed mental health concerns can lead to the development of unhealthy coping methods such as substance abuse. Additionally, ignoring mental health concerns will only make them worse, and may impact your physical health. Poor eating habits, lack of activity and isolation are common symptoms of depression, and they can have a negative effect on recovery from or maintenance of chronic illness-related symptoms.

Finding Physical and Mental Health

Chronic illnesses are enough to worry about without the added burden of mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety or addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling to find mental and physical health, call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to help you find the resources you need for long-term recovery.