People are quick to think of chronic illness purely as a medical issue—but it often has a profound psychological impact on people’s lives as well. People who live with chronic illness such as Crohn’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or Metastatic Breast Cancer are frequently forced to view life from a different perspective. It colors how they approach work, social events, and even romantic relationships. While the psychological impact can vary from person to person, and based on the type and severity of the illness, the reality is that the experience of living with chronic illness can be isolating.
In today’s post, we’re digging into the most common impacts chronic illness has on a person’s psychological well-being.
Grief & Loss
Even people who have lived with a chronic illness their whole lives may experience a profound sense of grief and loss. It’s natural to mourn what might have been. When you struggle with a condition that changes how your body works, you’re inevitably forced to make hard choices. It may no longer be possible to play a sport you once loved, or the tremor in your hands may make it difficult to paint or write or play guitar.
Grief is how humans come to terms with loss—it’s natural to grieve the loss of your old life or even the life you planned to lead.
The sad reality is that most people without a chronic illness can’t imagine how much impact it can have on your life. Even close friends & family members are going to be caught up in their own day-to-day lives, and as a result, many of your struggles may happen behind closed doors without the support structure you once relied on. Chronic illness can be traumatic in many ways, and because it changes our perspective on life, you may find it harder to relate to their problems—an annoying boss or the pressure of a deadline may seem small compared to managing a long-term healthcare crisis.
Isolation is often the first step on the road to depression. Accordingly, it’s important to find people who do understand what you’re going through. If you’re feeling isolated, consider finding a support group or exploring new hobbies and activities that may be compatible with your chronic illness.
It’s hard to plan for the future when you’re dealing with a chronic illness, and anxiety loves to show up when you’re living with uncertainty. You may have a lot of question marks around how your illness is going to fit into a romantic relationship, how it may impact your job—or even whether or not you feel up to hanging out with friends.
Do your best to communicate your worries to others. Let your friends know you want to hang out, but be open about the fact that plans may need to change at the last minute. It may be difficult, but remember to enjoy the present instead of trying to plan for an uncertain future.
Unfortunately, there’s no escape from the reality that coping with chronic illness means adaptation and change. It’s necessary for people living with chronic illness to learn strategies they can use to accept and communicate their limitations, connect with others, and plan for the future. While it might feel hopeless at times, the reality is many people with chronic illness discover interests, passions, and truths about themselves.
During this time, it’s important for you to show yourself kindness. Spend time with your feelings. Let yourself move through that process of grief. Many people benefit tremendously from journaling as a way of expressing and processing the changes in their lives.
Schedule a Consultation
It’s not easy to process the psychological impacts of a chronic illness on your own. If you’re feeling isolated and alone, please consider reaching out to schedule a quick call so we can talk about how chronic pain therapy can help.