If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness, it can be normal to feel flat for a while. You might be adjusting to the challenges of a busy treatment schedule or feeling anxious about the treatments themselves.
Emotions can be mixed: you might feel confused, relieved, resentful over a long diagnosis process—or, perhaps you feel frustrated, like you’ve been made to jump through hoops just to have your suffering recognised.
It’s important to know though that if these feelings persist, or, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms this article talks about, you might be experiencing depression.
What Is Depression?
Depression is more significant than just feeling a bit down—it is a real illness, and it needs proper treatment. It is widely known now that people with chronic illnesses are at a higher risk of depression.
In some cases, it can be the stress and strain of adjusting to the illness itself. In other cases, as outlined by the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some physical illnesses themselves (for example, Parkinson’s disease) bring about changes in the brain, which can sometimes play a role in depression.
It’s also the case that certain medications used to treat illnesses may trigger depression.
For these reasons, and given the complex nature of mental health, it is always important to seek the advice of a qualified health professional to support you if you think there’s any chance you’re experiencing depression or other mental health challenges.
Furthermore, while these correlations between chronic illness and depression might seem a little daunting, please don’t be alarmed: there is significant support available to you, and there are many professionals who can help. Most importantly, please know that depression can be treated and very well managed even when other illnesses are present.
How to Manage Your Mental Health
So, what can you do to help manage your mental health?
The very first—and often challenging—step is to identify the symptoms and recognise whether they are affecting you.
According to the NIMH, symptoms of depression may include:
- Feeling sad, irritable, or anxious
- Feeling empty, hopeless, guilty, or worthless
- Experiencing a loss of pleasure in usually-enjoyed hobbies or activities
- Fatigue and decreased energy, feeling listless
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much. Waking too early
- Eating too much or not wanting to eat at all, possibly with unplanned weight gain or loss
- Thoughts of death/suicide or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease with treatment
If you can relate to any of these symptoms, consider taking action to manage your mental health.
Here are some tips you can use to assist you in managing your mental health while living with chronic illness:
- Engage a Mental Health Professional: They can help you to feel supported and give you a full understanding of your treatment options.
- Talk to Your Other Health Care Professionals: Don’t keep your feelings in the dark when it comes to how you’re adjusting to life with a chronic illness. Also, make sure that all of your health carers (for physical and mental health) are aware of any diagnoses you have and medications you’re taking.
- Reach Out for Support: Join a well-managed support group and/or actively seek out emotional support from family and friends. Avoiding social isolation is important.
- Set Goals: Set yourself some short-term goals that can help you regain your sense of control. This is not about pushing yourself—it’s about acknowledging what you’re able to achieve.
- Engage in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most well-researched psychological therapies, and there is a lot of evidence to support its efficacy in treating people with anxiety disorders and depression.
- Try Quantum Neuro Recoding: You might find it useful to explore therapies like Quantum Neuro Recoding to treat your depression and other mental health challenges.
- Keep Your Lifestyle Healthy: As much as you are able, implement lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, a good night’s sleep, and exercise. Think about whether you can incorporate meditation, which is a great way to relieve both pain and stress!
Check in With Yourself Regularly
When you deal with the challenges of chronic illness or chronic pain, it’s a good idea to regularly ‘check in’ with yourself and think about what you can do to support your mental health.
Perhaps there are particular things that you already rely on in order to maintain your mental health?
Chronic illness or chronic pain can make it challenging to maintain a social life and keep in regular touch with family and friends. This can exacerbate feelings of isolation, so it’s a good idea to have someone else who you can also check in with, even if it’s just over the phone, to combat those feelings and get help when you need it.
If you feel like you’re already suffering from mental health challenges, please contact your health care professionals—there are many people who can help you, and there is no need to feel alone.
And, remember, treatments for depression can be undertaken even when other illnesses are present, so you don’t need to suffer through depression—you can get the help you need.
Author Bio – About Terri Bowman from Brain Wellness Spa
Terri Bowman, creator and founder of the Brain Wellness Spa, has developed a drug-free solution called Quantum Neuro Recoding (QNR). Terri helps customers to recover from anxiety, depression, PTSD, anger, burnout, crisis, negativity, and other emotional and mental health challenges.