Coping with chronic disease is extremely challenging.
It’s not just the illness itself but the affect it has on a person’s quality of life which leaves its mark – particularly on their mental health.
If you have received a diagnosis recently or have been coping with chronic illness for a while, it is highly likely you have experienced some form of depression or will do so at some stage of your illness.
Here, we look at chronic illness in more detail, how it affects people mentally as well as physically, and the critical mechanisms for coping with chronic disease.
The Wider Impact of Chronic Disease
A chronic illness can affect every aspect of a person’s life – their ability to work, socialise and connect with family. All of this has a knock-on effect on their general well-being, reducing their overall quality of life over time. It is no surprise that most people coping with chronic illness also suffer from a mental health problem at some point, especially depression.
Understanding why this happens and how to manage the situation helps many people improve their well-being and lead a relatively normal life despite their illness.
How Does Chronic Illness Affect Mental Health?
Chronic illnesses can leave those suffering feeling exhausted. In many cases, the stress of living with a disease can diminish mental health and lead to serious problems like depression. In fact, according to a study conducted by the mental health charity Black Dog Institute, depression affects almost one-third of people living with a chronic disease.
Chronic illness, along with depression, can limit activities and have a negative impact on a person’s everyday life. Initially, it might present itself on an individual subtly – through bursts of anger, sadness or stress. Eventually, though, this can affect an individual with chronic illness more deeply, when symptoms of depression begin to emerge; some people may even have suicidal thoughts. This makes it essential for anybody suffering to learn ways of coping with chronic illness and depression.
Coping with Chronic Depression
Depression is a serious matter, particularly when it sets in deeply. But there are ways to overcome depression and return to a positive mental state.
If you are going through a similar experience, here are a few ways to help you cope with chronic stress.
Have Confidence in Your Doctor
Symptoms of chronic illness remain for a long time, which means you will spend a lot of time visiting your doctor. Yet a lack of confidence in your consulting doctor will do little to support your depression.
When coping with chronic illness, your relationship with your doctor is crucial to effectively managing your disease and any associated issues. Confiding in your doctor about all your battles and symptoms will make it easier for them to provide you with the proper chronic illness care. So, if you don’t feel completely confident with your current GP, find one who understands you.
Learn to ‘Talk It Out‘
Coping with chronic stress is extremely difficult. There will be days when you feel like you are absolutely alone, and it’s important to recognise that you’re not. Take time to speak with a close friend or family member to remove the burden off of your shoulders; you may also want to consider speaking with a professional counsellor.
One thing is critical when you’re dealing with depression: Isolation is not the answer. Keep up your communications with friends and family members, even if it’s over the phone rather than in person. Use a video calling service with those in your network who are too far away geographically to arrange in-person catch-ups. Building a solid support group helps you deal with and overcome any negative feelings and emotions.
Self-Manage your Illness
Self-management in chronic illness is an extremely important step, especially when you are combating depression as well. Many factors, such as sleeping, healthy eating, and exercising, might be affecting your physical and mental well-being. Not only do these factors affect your medical condition, but they can also influence your psychological condition.
If you’re struggling to cope with chronic illness and depression, consider positive ways to change your lifestyle. How healthy are your food, exercise and sleep patterns? Start by ensuring you have a nutritious diet rich in protein and vitamins. Physical activity is also extremely important for mental well-being, from cardio work to up the heart rate to mindful practises like yoga. If you don’t exercise much, remember to consult your doctor before starting a new routine. Lastly, check you’re getting enough sleep for your body to function effectively – at least 8-9 hours per night.
Managing Chronic Disease: A Final Word
Dealing with chronic illness and depression concurrently can be extremely draining. However tough things become, maintaining a positive outlook helps to lift the mood and manage your conditions better. Make sure you keep your friends, family and your doctor close by for support and advice.
Vital Home Health Services is led by a professional team of Registered Nurses with over 21 years of experience in the public and private health sectors.
If you would like to discuss your home nursing care needs or just have a question you would like to ask, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly staff members.