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The Mental and Emotional Side Effects of Chronic Illness

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A big part of chronic illness is, of course, the physical aspect and what effect these types of illnesses have on our mobility and the other various physical symptoms that come with the territory. However, what most people forget about is the mental aspect of chronic illness. Yes, the physical effects are hard, but sometimes you might be surprised to know that the mental effects can be just as bad, if not worse. Today on the blog, I talk about this side of chronic illness and provide some tips to help make it a bit more manageable!

young woman sitting on a rock overlooking a valley with text saying 'when chronic illness gets you down'

Chronic illness isn’t just about the physical hardships that a person can experience, but the mental and emotional strains of these too. In fact, research shows that depression is much more common in those struggling with chronic/serious diseases than the general population.

The unpredictability of chronic illness makes it hard to live with. Why? Because you never know when you might have to change/cancel your plans – whether it be going out with some friends, finishing that to-do list or even just a chill evening at the house with your partner. When you’re constantly up and down, able and not able to do things, it can be very hard to be happy all the time. I mean, if you’re really looking forward to some plans and have to cancel for something out of your control, you’d be pretty miffed too, wouldn’t you? When this is a regular occurrence it makes it all the worse. The let down, the guilt of having to tell friends/partner/family you can’t make it, the annoyance that this happened for the fourth time in a row… It all adds up.

Changes in lifestyle often accompany chronic illness and sometimes it can even alter the individual’s independence. This can create anxiety, especially when you’re venturing out of the house. Constant questions ensue. Will I get a seat on the train today, or will I have to stand for an hour? How busy is it likely to be? Will I get pushed and shoved? How long am I going to be able to walk around before I burn out? You get the picture. The constant planning that has to go into everything when you have a serious health condition becomes frustrating and can suck the fun out of plans.

If one’s health condition involves pain, and they live with a constant pain level every day, it can certainly take its toll. Let’s take a cold or flu as an example, as most people experience these on a common basis (you’re very lucky if you don’t). Most people are miserable the whole time they are experiencing the symptoms because they stop them from doing the things they love and generally just beats you down… Could you imagine living with a cold or flu every day?

Above all, you feel a certain loss of the person you used to be and the ability to do the things you love. Of course, doing things we enjoy makes us happy, but if you can’t do them because they take too much out of you then it makes us unhappy.

So, how can you try to overcome these?

Regularly partake in a self-care routine – you can find some tips on this here and it is something I will post about again in weeks to come.

Find hobbies you love and can participate in – examples include reading, crafts, photography or even watching films you love.

Online communities – there are lots of online communities, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or online in general. The amount of support you can gain from these is massive and everyone there understands.

Just do you – don’t worry about what other people say. If they love you enough, they will understand!

What are your favorite hobbies? Let me know in the comments and, of course, don’t forget to share!


This post originally appeared on Living With JHS.

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Originally published: May 5, 2017
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