As if being diagnosed with a chronic illness isn’t life changing enough, sometimes chronic illness can lead to other conditions like anxiety.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always been a little tightly wound/ type A personality. But I wouldn’t have labeled it as anxiety. However as I’ve been navigating these chronic illness waters, I feel like I’m suffering from a bit of chronic illness-induced anxiety.
If you’re not sure if you have chronic illness anxiety, here are some signs as well as a few tips for coping if your chronic illness is also giving your chronic anxiety.
Can Chronic Illness Cause Anxiety
Short answer – Yes. 100% yes.
When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, it’s a stressful time in your life. You’re not only dealing with the symptoms of the illness and finding treatments to keep things at bay. You are not facing the uncertainty of the future. Questions about long term quality of life, lifestyle changes, implications on family and friends. The list goes on and on.
One may naturally fall into a pit of despair and land into a world of negativity and depression. I’ve done it myself.
Anxiety is then triggered because fear now consumes all of your thoughts and feelings.
Can Anxiety Weaken your Immune System
The real kicker is that chronic illness can cause anxiety but having anxiety can exacerbate your chronic illness.
Ever wonder why you’re told to rest and relax when you’re sick (even with just the common cold)? It’s because the symptoms of anxiety like stress can impede your body’s healing process.
Stress has always been a major trigger for my chronic illness. But it seems so ridiculous that you’re expected to be calm and relaxed when facing an autoimmune/chronic illness.
Signs of Anxiety in Chronic illness Warriors
Not sure if your chronic illness has caused anxiety? Here are a few signs of anxiety in people with chronic illnesses:
- Excessively worrying about your illness
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping due to worrying
- Nightmares about physical health
- Panic attacks about life after diagnosis
- Difficulty discussing illness
- Avoiding doctor visits + treatments
- Avoiding social interactions
- Nonstop thoughts about dying
- Becoming irritable about your health
- Paralyzing fear about your future with chronic illness
If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, I recommend that you talk to your doctor ASAP because you don’t want this to spiral out of control, and like I mentioned earlier, anxiety can worsen your chronic illness.
5 Tips for Coping when Chronic Illness Causes Anxiety
Challenge negative thinking. While you may not be able to stop a negative thought from occurring, you can challenge it. Basically we’re going to stop the thought right in it’s tracks and not allow our brains to spiral. Is it really true? Do I know it to be 100% true? If not, girl stop – “aint nobody got time for that”.
You can learn more about challenging thoughts and beliefs from the work of Byron Katie.
Recenter + Calm down. There are a ton of relaxation techniques that you can use to try to pull yourself back from the edge. You can try meditation, yoga, or even different breathing techniques to recenter your mind and relax the body. Maybe its a combo of a bunch of them or maybe you only need just one. Find what works best for you through a little trial and error.
Choose your MVPs (most valuable practitioners). I’ve spoken before about the importance of a good medical team. You need a team of people who you feel comfortable with and that listen to your concerns. A good team will make it easier to find and implement the right treatment plan for you.
I find this to be especially true if you’re considering taking medications for your various illnesses. You don’t want one medication to interfere with another. So it’s important that everyone is communicating and is on the same page.
Find support. Living with a chronic illness can be lonely AF. Family and friends love you but that may not be able to relate to some of the things you’re going through or the feelings you’re feeling.
Find yourself a tribe of people to connect with. Maybe its in person or even via social media. Don’t underestimate the importance of someone reassuring your concerns and telling you that you’re not crazy or alone.
Refocus, Empower + Praise. Lack of control over your body and your life is just one of the recurring thoughts chronic illness may have you obsess about. However, focusing on all of the things that you CAN do versus all of the things that you CANT do (anymore) can empower you.
Once you find those things, give yourself constant affirmation + praise – no matter what it is big or small. Having a chronic illness turns everyday tasks into amazing feats so every action can be an accomplishment.
Explore Treatment Programs. If your anxiety is very intense, you may benefit from an anxiety recovery program The options ranging from individual psychotherapy and medications to group therapy and holistic treatments. Do research about what’s available in your area and talk it over with your doctor.
Let’s talk more about chronic illness and anxiety. Let me know how your journey has been and what things have helped you cope in the comments below.