Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Living with a chronic illness - dealing with feelings

Description

Learning that you have a long-term (chronic) illness can bring up many different feelings.

Learn about common emotions you might have when you are diagnosed and live with a chronic illness. Learn how to support yourself and where to go for more support.

Getting Used to Chronic Illness

Examples of chronic illnesses are:

It can be a shock to learn you have a chronic illness. You may ask "why me?" or "where did it come from?"

  • Sometimes nothing can explain why you got the illness.
  • The illness may run in your family.
  • You may have been exposed to something that caused the illness.

As you learn more about your illness and how to take care of yourself, your feelings may change. Fear or shock may give way to:

  • Anger because you have the illness
  • Sadness or depression because you may not be able to live the way you used to
  • Confusion or stress about how to take care of yourself

Your Image of Yourself May Change

You may feel like you are not a whole person anymore. You might be embarrassed or ashamed that you have an illness. Know that, with time, your illness will become part of you and you will have a new normal.

You will learn to live with your illness. You will get used to your new normal. For example:

  • A person with diabetes may need to learn to test their blood sugar and give insulin several times a day. This becomes their new normal.
  • A person with asthma may need to carry an inhaler and avoid things that may cause an asthma attack. This is their new normal.

Expect to Feel Overwhelmed

You may be overwhelmed by:

  • How much there is to learn.
  • What lifestyle changes you need to make. For example, you may be trying to change your diet, quit smoking, and exercise.

Be Gentle with Yourself

Over time, you'll adapt to living with your illness.

  • Know that you will adapt over time. You will feel like yourself again as you learn how to fit your illness into your life.
  • Know that what may be confusing at first starts to make sense. Give yourself time to learn how to take care of your illness.

Feelings and Emotions Over Time

It takes a lot of energy to manage your chronic illness every day. Sometimes, this can affect your outlook and mood. Sometimes you may feel very alone. This is especially true during times when your illness is harder to manage.

You may sometimes have the feelings you had when you first got the illness:

  • Depressed that you have the illness. It feels like life will never be OK again.
  • Angry. It still seems unfair that you have the illness.
  • Afraid that you will become very ill over time.

These kinds of feelings are normal.

Stress can make it harder for you to take care of your chronic illness. You can learn to cope with stress to help you manage day to day.

Find ways to decrease stress that work for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Read a book or watch a movie.
  • Try yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
  • Take an art class, play an instrument, or listen to music.
  • Call or spend time with a friend.

Finding healthy, fun ways to cope with stress helps many people. If your stress lasts, talking with a therapist might help you deal with the many feelings that come up. Ask your health care provider for help finding a therapist.

Learn More about Your Illness

Know more about your illness so you can manage it and feel better about it.

  • Learn how to live with your chronic illness. At first it might seem like it is controlling you, but the more you learn and can do for yourself, the more normal and in control you will feel.
  • Find information on the Internet, at a library, and from social networks, support groups, national organizations, and local hospitals.
  • Ask your provider for websites you can trust. Not all the information you find online is from reliable sources.

References

American Psychological Association. Coping with a diagnosis of chronic illness. Updated August 2013. www.apa.org/helpcenter/chronic-illness.aspx. Accessed November 3, 2016.

Larsen PD. Psychosocial adjustment. In: Larsen PD, ed. Lubkin's Chronic Illness: Impact and Intervention. 9th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning; 2016:chap 3.

Wagner EH. Comprehensive chronic disease management. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 13.

Review Date:9/3/2016
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No