Why Is Coping With a Chronic Illness Often So Challenging?
A chronic illness or chronic disease can be roughly defined as ongoing conditions lasting more than one year that require medical intervention, cause limitations in daily living, or both. Chronic illness is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States.
Chronic illnesses can include diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s and Colitis, HIV, mood disorders, and so many more.
In general, poor physical and mental health habits can increase someone’s chances of developing or worsening a chronic illness. But unlike acute illnesses like strep throat, bronchitis, or the stomach flu, chronic illnesses may never fully go away.
They can cause disruptions in your life and may bring about invisible symptoms like pain, mood disorders, or fatigue that make it challenging to work and to take care of yourself on your own.
Chronic illness can also bring about changes in your appearance, which can affect your self-image in a number of ways. A poor self-image can lead to other mental health symptoms and complications, and can in turn worsen symptoms of your chronic illness. It’s a vicious feedback loop that can be difficult to break on your own.
When Should You Seek Out Help For A Chronic Illness?
When you start to notice that your chronic illness is affecting your life in ways that are getting increasingly more challenging to cope with, it might be the right time to seek out help. The sooner you take action, the sooner you will start to feel better.
Stress can build and can shape your feelings about life. Long periods of stress can lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, and, at times, depression. This can happen not only to you but also to your family members. They’re also influenced by the chronic health problems of a loved one.
Working with a mental health provider can help you to regain a sense of control over your chronic illness and have an overall improved quality of life.
How Can Mental Health Treatment Improve Symptoms Of Chronic Illness?
Chronic illnesses often come hand-in-hand with feelings of uncertainty and unpredictability, financial difficulties, irritability, stress, anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances, and any of a wide variety of other symptoms that make it challenging just to go about your daily activities. Working with a mental health professional can help you to learn ways to cope with these symptoms and start to feel better.
There are simple practices you can work into your daily routines that can have hugely beneficial effects for those suffering from symptoms of chronic illness, for example:
- Getting an adequate amount of physical exercise
- Eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet
- Engaging in stress-relieving activities like meditation, journaling, or mindfulness practices
- Asking for help when you need it
- Avoiding negative coping strategies like alcohol or substance abuse
Supportive Care for Adjustment/Coping
- Initial Consultation
- Includes everything from consultation (60 minute evaluation and review of medical records and a written report for your medical team)
- Customized Coping Plan
- This will be constructed over the course of a 30 minute follow up session in which information from your consultation will be specifically incorporated in your plan.
- GI Psychiatry Monthly Log
- GI Psychiatry has developed a proprietary symptom and goals log to help you in your recovery. It is a virtual journal to keep you on track wherever you go.
- Team Coordination
- Phone call and email support for your medical team. Initial call after consultation and quarterly check in calls.
- Group Supportive Therapy
- Groups are small facilitated coping circles to find support and discuss coping with a chronic GI illness in a virtual community.
Ongoing Treatment (Therapy and/or Medications)
- Everything Included From Consultation and Supportive Care
- 60 minute telepsychiatry consultation with Dr. Brandon as well as a write up for your medical team.
- GI Psychiatry Log Connection
- In this plan, your journal will be linked directly to be reviewed with Dr. Brandon in sessions and to monitor your progress.
- Individual Psychotherapy
- Weekly 30 minute sessions with Dr. Brandon to work in depth on coping, cognitive and dynamic therapy.
- Medication Management (if recommended)
- Medication management is a decision between psychiatrist and patient, there is not forced medication at GI Psychiatry, however, if you are in need of medications or higher level of care, this may be recommended. Everyone at GI psychiatry is not on medications and it is not a requirement.