How Chronic Illness Can Affect Your Mental Health

If you are suffering from a chronic illness, you are not alone. Almost half of the population in the United States is currently battling some form of chronic physical illness. In fact, chronic illness is the number one driver of healthcare costs in America.

Some of the most prevalent examples of chronic illnesses are:

  • Epilepsy
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Endometriosis
  • Lupus
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Fibromyalgia

Many people suffering from a chronic illness can become depressed. It is estimated that roughly one-third of chronic illness patients suffer from depression, a rate that is significantly higher than in the general population.

Depression is often an immediate response to the diagnosis. It can be overwhelming to be told you will need to be treated for your illness for weeks, perhaps even a lifetime. Certain types of chronic illness can also, and quite suddenly, change how a person lives their day-to-day life. They may not be able to do the same things and, in some cases, completely lose their independence.

There are physical illnesses which can cause depression by hampering the central nervous system or endocrine system. Some examples would include thyroid disease, Cushing’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain.

Symptoms of Depression

If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with a chronic disease, it’s important to watch out for signs of depression. These can include:

  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Losing interest in once-loved hobbies and activities
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or too little)
  • Trouble with sleep (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble focusing
  • Thoughts of suicide

Becoming educated about the link between chronic illness and depression is extremely important. So is seeking help. Be sure to discuss any symptoms with your doctor. He or she may be able to refer you to a therapist.

Many patients have found they can treat their depression right alongside their illness by using medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. It is also helpful to surround yourself with a loving support network of friends and family.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression as a result of living with a chronic illness and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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