Chronic illness and mental health
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Chronic illness and mental health

Post by Dr Bhavna Barmi & team on Sunday, October 2, 2022

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Chronic diseases as well as mental health disorder are both common and can coexist. They can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender or income. Cardiovascular diseases have been the leading cause of death and depression is dominating in the case of mental health disorders.

Chronic diseases are said to be prolonged in duration and do not resolve spontaneously and very rarely it gets cured. A person with chronic diseases can experience an intense and long lasting feeling of exhaustion, fear, guilt and resentment. 

In case of diabetes, people having mental illness may feel lack of motivation to take care of their health. They tend to indulge in unhealthy form of eating habits, smoking, substance abuse and other harmful behavior. Mental illness can also cause social and cognitive dysfunction and lack of energy. Diabetes distress has become prevalent in case of stress, depression and anxiety. 

There are overlapping of depression and heart diseases that can lead to fatigue, low energy and difficulty in sleeping. Depression can make it difficult for people dealing with heart conditions and intensifies the pain in them. Distress can cause high blood pressure, arterial damage and irregular heart rhythms. 

As per the previous researchers it have been found out that people with schizophrenia have found to have higher risk of developing gallbladder and bowel cancer which has been linked to high fat diets. People with cancer have high chances of developing depression due to stress, emotional distress and changes in body. 

People having mental health conditions can also lead to the development of chronic respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis and asthma. They have high smoking rates and respiratory diseases.  They experience elevated rates of anxiety and depression. Panic disorder and anxiety are prevalent in people having asthma. Some medication can also alter mood.

Chronic diseases and mental health disorder can have many other symptoms such as craving for sweet and salty food and decrease in physical activity and weight gain. These maladaptive coping pattern can diminish mental health even further which can in turn diminish the quality of life.  

Chronic illness such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes may make one feel to have developed a mental health condition. It is very common to feel sad, low and disappointed in oneself after having a heart attack, receiving a cancer diagnosis and trying to manage a chronic condition of pain.

One may face few limits that can make them feel stressed or apprehensive about the treatment that they might be getting. It is very heard to adapt to the new reality when it comes to adjusting to the changes. 

Studies done by Henry T. Ire’s based on the mental health of young adults with chronic illness has examined psychological symptoms in the community-based sample of 286 young adults having chronic illness. The psychiatric symptom index was used to assess the status of mental health in these individuals. Found out that selected risk factors and severity of the chronic illness is positively correlated to mental health in young adults.

People with chronic risk have a greater risk as developing depression over a course of time. There are some factors which increase the risk of having depression in healthy people also that can raise the risk in the people with other kind of mental health condition. People who have chronic illness also report the risk factor including family history and depression or family members who have died by suicide. 

There are some risk factors for the depression that can be related to another form of illness. These include people having Parkinson’s disease and stroke that can cause possible changes to brain functioning. These changes can have a direct role to cause depression. Illness- related anxiety and stress can lead to depression.

Depression is often found to be associated with chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’sdisease, diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, coronary heart disease,stroke,Parkinson’sdisease and multiple sclerosis. Some people experience depression after being diagnosed with chronic illness. Medication can ease the illness but they are likely to cause depression.

As the previous researches depict, it has been found that people who have medical illness and have mental health illness can develop both severely. They may have higher medical costs than who do not have both. Depression can still be present if the physical health starts to improve. In order to tackle this, health practitioners often use a collaborative care approach that include both mental and physical health care. Research have shown that treating depression as well as chronic illness can together help people manage their mental and physical health. 

Children and adolescents with chronic illnesses often face more problems when compared to their peers. It can have a great impact on physical, cognitive, social and emotional development which can also be stressful for other caregivers. Children and adolescents with chronic illnesses can experience tremendous form of stress.

Parents and healthcare providers should be cautious when it comes to the lookout for signs of depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders, these conditions difficulty in coping with the stressful events of life. Young people having chronic illness have the same developmental issues as the ones who are healthy. Development can be disrupted with consistent visits to hospitals ( Rachel M Taylor). As per multidimensional scaling it have been found out that there is a significant relationship chronic illness and poor psychosocial functioning ( Donald M., 2016).


Self-help ways to maintain good metal health

  1. One can experience stress with yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
  2. Healthy diet and micronutrients are vital in maintaining good mental health.
  3. Maintain a good social support system can go a long way.
  4. Have adequate amount of sleep.

Patients self management of chronic illness is increasingly essential to improve health behaviors, health outcomes and quality of life. The current state of the science of chronic disease self-management interventions and the evidence for their effectiveness, especially when applied with a systematic application of theories or models that account for a wide range of influences on behavior.

The  analysis of selected outcomes from randomized controlled trials of chronic disease self-management interventions contained in 10 Cochrane systematic reviews provides additional evidence to demonstrate that self-management can improve quality of life and reduce utilization across several conditions (Martin T. Wells ).