Imagine your life as a delicately constructed tapestry, woven with care over a lifetime. We create that tapestry through strands of memories, emotions, and interests. Against all odds we balance those parts against our fears and worries—the anxieties and traumas that shape and mold us. In many cases we arrive at a delicate, hard-won peace.
Whether age or unforeseen circumstance, chronic illness can arrive without warning. It upsets that delicate balance, introducing a new set of fears and worries. It inflames new and old anxieties alike, upending the delicate order of our lives.
In this article, we’ll examine the interplay between chronic illness and anxiety.
Understanding Chronic Illness
Chronic illness functions as a strange thread that weaves its way through the pattern of your life, disrupting order and routine. Very clinically, a chronic illness is:
- Persistent: It lasts for an extended period of time, often months, years, or for a lifetime.
- Complex: Chronic illness must be taken into account when making plans or scheduling.
- Disruptive: finances, friendships and relationships can all change with chronic illness.
Because chronic illness touches so many parts of our lives, it becomes a constant companion. It must be taken into consideration when planning an outing with friends, starting a new job, or even finding a romantic partner. Whether we adjust smoothly or not, there is a period of time where old routines are called into question.
With this in mind, it’s important to be aware that chronic illness impacts not just our body, but also our mind.
Anxiety & Chronic Illness
In many ways anxiety can be most easily understood as a sense of uncertainty about things. When we feel safe, our anxieties are diminished; when we’re in a new environment or dealing with variables we can’t account for, our bodies compensate by putting us into fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormones pump through our body, changing the way we make decisions and solve problems. Sometimes that’s for the best, but other times it can leave us scrambling.
Because Chronic Illness throws our lives into uncertainty, it can trigger a wave of intense anxiety. We may worry about how we’ll handle it if we’re out with friends and something goes wrong. We may feel the same thing when it comes to meeting new people—dreading having to explain the condition. And we may stay up late into the night, worrying about what our chronic illness might have in store for us next.
Chronic Illness creates uncertainty, and uncertainty creates anxiety. There are a number of anxiety disorders specifically associated with chronic illness:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Psychological Impacts of Chronic Illness
It’s not unusual after being diagnosed with chronic illness to go through a period of grief. You may be mourning a life you once envisioned for yourself that no longer feels possible. In addition, your body may be going through changes. You may experience unfamiliar aches and pains, rapid fatigue, all of which can elevate your stress levels. Irritability and emotional outbursts are not uncommon.
As you navigate your chronic illness, you may feel anxiety over your own behavior. Some people are left feeling like strangers in their own body—they don’t recognize themselves or their emotions. They feel intense frustration and fear as their sense of identity is challenged.
This is natural. With time, patience, and self-care, it will pass.
Schedule a Consultation
After diagnosis of a chronic illness, many people feel broken, ashamed, and frustrated. In truth, this is a period of profound change that is often difficult to navigate alone—which is why it’s important to remember that you aren’t the only person that’s experienced this before.
While the process may be difficult, you will be able to unwind the old tapestry and weave a new one. There are a wide variety of therapeutic skills and techniques that help manage anxiety and balance a life disrupted by chronic illness. Reach out to schedule a consultation today, and we can discuss how I can help you on your journey.