Therapy for Chronic Health Conditions: What It Is And How It Helps
Research shows that 60% of Americans have chronic health conditions like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Subsequently, many people live with disabilities that affect everyday functioning. Depending on your specific circumstances, these conditions can significantly impact your quality of life and affect your relationships, well-being, and self-esteem.
Seeking professional help often makes a valuable difference. While therapy for chronic health conditions doesn’t fix or solve the issue, it can provide support, reassurance, and practical coping tools. So let’s get into what you need to know.
What Defines a Chronic Health Condition?
A chronic illness lasts for at least a year. Some people are born with chronic conditions- others develop them at various stages in life.
Chronic illness timelines also vary. It’s certainly possible for symptoms to improve and disappear with appropriate intervention. However, other times, even with optimal treatment, the illness progressively worsens.
Chronic health conditions aren’t always specific diagnoses. For example, many people experiencing chronic pain spend years suffering from debilitating symptoms without knowing what’s going on. In addition, these individuals often report feeling invisible in the medical community, exacerbating even more anxiety or depression.
Can Mental Health Conditions Be Chronic?
Yes, they certainly can be. Mental health conditions are considered pervasive, meaning they don’t just disappear on their own.
Of course, just because something is chronic doesn’t mean it defines your existence. Furthermore, chronic health issues can be subjective based on your own experiences and symptoms.
For instance, an individual with severe depression may find it hard to leave home and go to work. As a result, they struggle with serious career and financial problems. They might feel their chronic depression has significantly deteriorated their quality of life.
Someone else might have severe depression, but they label it as more of a frustrating inconvenience and attempt to “power through” their feelings. Although they feel sad and even worthless sometimes, they busy themselves with other activities and try to remain optimistic. If asked directly, they might say that their depression is just something “they’ve accepted.”
In this scenario, both people might have severe depression they consider to be chronic. However, the symptoms (and subsequent emotions) can manifest in different ways.
Finally, mental health conditions exist on a spectrum. What may present as a minor inconvenience to one person can be downright life-threatening for someone else. Furthermore, other triggers (like co-occurring health issues, trauma, or lifestyle factors) can aggravate the condition.
Why Seek Therapy for Chronic Health Conditions?
Many people feel alone or scared when faced with chronic illness. They might worry about burdening others. They may also assume that they are overreacting to certain stressors.
Therapy does not entirely eradicate those thoughts. However, it can offer a safe place for you to explore your fears, challenge your assumptions, and embrace new coping methods. Here are some other benefits.
Validation and Empathy
Unfortunately, people aren’t always receptive when hearing sensitive information. Maybe you have felt disregarded or even gaslit by others. And, perhaps even your loved ones don’t know how to talk to you about your feelings.
Therapists support their clients by validating and empathizing with their experiences. Your therapist won’t take pity on you- they will, however, work hard to understand your situation and recognize your inherent struggles.
Therapists offer psychoeducation to help clients understand more about their current situations. Psychoeducation is a broad concept, but it generally refers to providing specific insight about mental health conditions and their impact on your functioning.
In this regard, psychoeducation offers a more intellectual approach for explaining why you might be feeling what you’re feeling. As a result, it can help you feel more empowered. Subsequently, you may find yourself being less judgmental or harsh with yourself.
Effective Coping Tools
Learning how to manage your chronic health condition is no easy task. It often requires a combination of practice, discipline, and patience.
That said, therapists are trained to help you manage distressing emotions. Ideally, with the right support, you will become more aware of your triggers and adapt to challenging situations with more confidence and ease.
Decrease Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand with chronic health conditions. As you may know, mental health symptoms often aggravate physical health symptoms and vice versa.
Therapy can help you address anxiety symptoms by introducing concepts of mindfulness, maintaining a healthy routine, and choosing proactive coping responses. Over time, implementing these strategies can significantly improve how you feel.
Seeking therapy for chronic health conditions can help you harness a greater sense of confidence and internal safety. In addition, you will learn healthier ways to cope with your symptoms and manage your stress.
At Willow Counseling, we are here for you. No matter your condition, we want to fully support you during this challenging time. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.
Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN
Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.