Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Depression and Chronic Illness

Chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus and heart disease, affect approximately 125 million Americans every year. Chronic illness is defined as an illness lasting three months or longer, according to the definition provided by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. It is estimated that about one third of those people dealing with chronic illness experience symptoms of depression.

Some signs of depression are:
Depressed mood
Changes in eating habits/wait loss or gain - not related to the illness or treatment
Sleep disturbances - not related to the illness or treatment
Difficulty concentrating
Feelings of worthlessness
Loss of energy and fatigue
Suicidal thoughts

While every day there are medical advancements being made, depression is a common complication for chronic illnesses. When someone is diagnosed with a chronic medical condition, there are usually tremendous life changes that go along with that diagnosis. Someone who is diagnosed with chronic illness, not only has to adjust to the demands of their illness, but to the effects of the treatments they receive as well. It is common for someone who develops physical limitations due to their illness to experience loss over the decrease in their independence.

There are ways to deal with depression relating to chronic illness. It is important to remember the role that a positive outlook and self-image can play in combating depression. Therapy and support groups are a great way to help people manage their emotional symptoms relating to chronic illnesses. In counseling one can regain a sense of control and empowerment over their lives. Therapist can help clients understand how the illness contributes to the depression, and can help the client develop healthy coping skills. Support groups are great for helping people with chronic illness understand that they are not alone, and that there are others out there who know what they are going through.

Here are a few tips to remember when dealing with chronic illnesses:
Utilize your support network and try not to isolate
Learn as much as you can about your illness
Be sure to have clear and open communication with your doctors
Develop stress management coping skills
Maintain a positive outlook and self-image
Eat properly, exercise as your doctor permits and stop smoking
Maintain your normal routine as best you can

It is important to remember that with life there are challenges. If your challenge happens to be chronic illness and depression there are resources, tools, and people out there who can help. Don't underestimate the power of positive thinking, a positive support network, and knowledge. These, in conjunction with counseling or support groups, are powerful tools to help you get the most out of your life.

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