If you’re dealing with an ongoing health issue, you’re not alone. In England, 15 million people have a long-term condition, and around a third report chronic pain. Unfortunately, for many people ill-health expands beyond their physical symptoms and negatively impacts their mental health too.
What is a chronic illness?
A condition is called chronic when it is ongoing and there is no cure. It may require long-term medical treatment and limit daily activities. It includes conditions like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
The impact of chronic illness
Dealing with poor health over a sustained period of time is difficult and can grind even the most resilient of people down. Unsurprisingly many people find it impacts their quality of life in a manner of ways including:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability or reduced capacity to work
- Losing independence
- Strained relationships
- Difficulty participating in usual activities
- Low self-esteem and confidence
What are the signs you may benefit from therapy?
If you feel like you’re no longer able to cope with daily life, or that certain areas of your life are suffering, it could be time to explore therapy. Likewise, if you are regularly struggling with complex, challenging issues like the ones below, it could be a sign that you need some extra support.
Anxiety: If you feel constantly stressed, find it difficult to relax or experience physical symptoms like a fast heart rate, headaches or panic attacks, you could be dealing with the onset of anxiety. The additional stresses that come with ill health, like worrying about your job, finances or impact on your family, can lead to anxiety. You may also develop health anxiety and find yourself worrying about your symptoms getting worse over time or developing new conditions.
Depression and grief: Depression is a normal response to feeling like you’re in a hopeless situation. Ill health can change the way we see ourselves and we might feel like we’ve lost a part of our identity forever, which is a form of grief. If you’re dealing with this, you might have low mood, tearfulness, no motivation and be unable to find joy in the things you used to.
Anger: You might feel angry at yourself, for making choices in the past that you feel contributed to your current condition. Or you might feel angry at the injustice of the situation, stuck in a loop of asking why this has happened to you. This anger may go inward and become directed at yourself or it might spill outward and affect your loved ones or people living lives you are envious of. While anger is often frowned upon in society, it is actually a healthy emotion. Instead of repressing it, pay attention to it as it often highlights issues we want to change.
How can therapy help you cope with illness?
Therapy may not seem like an obvious choice for somebody dealing with physical symptoms, but if those symptoms are generating phycological distress then it could be highly beneficial to speak with a therapist.
Your therapist can help you to manage the stress that comes with having an illness, and together you can safely explore the multifaceted emotions that accompany it. You can also navigate the impact your condition has on specific areas of your life, such as work and relationships, and work together to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
While many people dealing with chronic illness are extremely grateful to their friends and family for the care they provide, it can also bring up complicated emotions such as feeling like a burden or finding the ongoing support claustrophobic. Therapy provides a judgement-free zone for you to unload the pressure valve of these complex feelings without worrying about upsetting your loved ones. If you are stuck in an unhelpful loop of thought patterns, such as blame or self-hatred, therapy can help identify and break them. You’ll work with your therapist to cultivate a sense of control over your thoughts and your condition that will help you manage more effectively in the future.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy could help you cope better with illness, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.
Chronic Illness Support For All – Support for people dealing with chronic illness
Pain UK – A coalition of charities providing help for people living with pain