The Link between Chronic Illness and Mental health
A chronic illness lasts for a very long time, and rarely can be fully cured. It can drain someone’s physical strength, and now research is showing how it affects mental health as well.
- Parkinson’s – 51%
- Cancer- 42%
- Diabetes- 27%
- Cerebrovascular – 23%
- Cardiovascular- 17%
- Alzheimer’s – 11%
(This is not an inclusive list of chronic illnesses and their corresponding depression rates.)
The link between chronic illness and depression is very real. Yet, including a mental health treatment plan with a physical health one is rare.
Research has shown that treating depression and chronic illness together alleviates symptoms of both depression and chronic illness faster than targeting just one (source).
So, what do we know about the link between chronic illness and Mental Health?
- Rates of mental health issues are higher with people with chronic illness
- Mental Health struggles can exacerbate chronic illness symptoms
- Treating both mental and physical illnesses at the same time is more effective than treating them separately.
What Does Depression Feel Like With a Chronic Illness?
Dealing with both depression and chronic illness creates a tricky ‘Catch 22’.
A chronic illness requires you to be in tune with your body, constantly adapting to the physical symptoms of the day. In short- you have to spend more time and energy on taking care of yourself.
On the other hand, a hallmark of mental health issues is being unable to take care of yourself. Depression especially makes it hard to make meals, go to bed on time, drink water, get exercise, and do other seemingly simple tasks that are crucial to your physical health.
People living with chronic physical illness experience depression as a result of the emotional and mental strain of their illness. The depression in turn exacerbates the physical health symptoms, which can spiral people deeper into depression. (source)
It’s one thing when it feels like your body or mind is working against you. It’s a whole other battle when both your body and mind are working against you.
When to Reach Out for Help
Sometimes, reaching us for professional mental health help isn’t necessary. If you have a strong support system, are in touch with your passions and hobbies, and are taking time every day to protect your mental health, you might not need to see a counselor.
However, it’s easy to let mental health slip away from us when dealing with a chronic illness. You have so much on your plate already!
If you recognize these depression symptoms in yourself or a loved one, reach out for help. Recovery from depression is always easier the sooner you receive help.
- Feeling hopeless or pessimistic
- An emptiness inside that never goes away
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Loss of interest in activities that previously interested you
- Withdrawal or isolation
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are plenty of steps we can take to prevent and heal from depression. Depression is not like a chronic illness; it has a high recovery rate of 70% when therapy is used.
Rivia Mind offers professional therapists that understand the complex situation of depression and Chronic Illness. You are not alone in this fight.
There are also at-home coping mechanisms that can help alleviate or prevent depression symptoms. If you are able, try:
- Contacting a loved one every day, even if it’s through phone or video call
- Keep up on one hobby
- Learn something new
- Have a meal outside
Don’t shy away from your feelings- they are big and that’s okay. Let yourself feel everything, and if you need help from a loved one or professional, reach out. You are fighting a lot right now, but you don’t have to do it alone.
For more information, or to schedule a free 15-minute consultation, call us at (212)-203-1773, or browse our list of specialists.