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Can Chronic Illness Influence Mental Health Problems?

September 13th, 2023


Living with a chronic illness presents a wide variety of challenges that extend beyond known physical symptoms. The delicate relationship between mental health and chronic illness reinforces the importance of holistic wellness and care. This blog will help individuals understand the relationship between these two aspects of well-being and provide effective strategies for managing mental health in cooccurrence with a chronic health condition.

The Coexistence

The coexistence of chronic illness and mental health problems is a well-known phenomenon. Individuals facing chronic health issues often find themselves battling a multitude of mental and emotional hurdles. The mental effects of chronic illness are varied and may include anxiety, depression, isolation, and even exacerbation of the physical symptoms themselves. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), people with chronic conditions are twice as likely to experience anxiety or depression compared to those without.

Chronic illnesses can lead to a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and uncertainty about the future. Coping with the daily challenges of managing symptoms, medical appointments, and medication schedules can be overwhelming and often trigger emotional distress. The constant adjustments required in lifestyle and activities can lead to feelings of loss, grief, frustration, and other mixed emotions. Furthermore, the physical limitations imposed by the illness may contribute to social isolation, leading to a decline in overall mental well-being.

The Vicious Cycle

The Vicious Cycle

The relationship between chronic illness and mental health is cyclic in nature. Chronic illness can contribute to the onset or exacerbation of mental health problems, and conversely, existing mental health issues can influence the perception and management of chronic health conditions. For instance, individuals battling depression might find it harder to adhere to treatment plans or adopt healthy lifestyle changes, thereby potentially worsening their physical health. This intertwined dynamic necessitates a comprehensive approach that addresses both aspects simultaneously.

Strategies for Managing Mental Health with a Chronic Illness

Strategies for Managing Mental Health with a Chronic Illness

  • Seeking Professional Support: The first step in effectively managing mental health alongside a chronic illness is to seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists and counselors, can provide guidance and tools to navigate the emotional challenges posed by chronic conditions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven particularly effective in helping individuals reframe negative thought patterns and develop coping mechanisms.
  • Building a Support Network: Isolation can increase the mental effects of chronic illness. Building a support network of family, friends, support groups, and other support systems can be a strong lifeline. Connecting with individuals who share similar experiences can foster a sense of belonging and understanding.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and anxiety. These techniques promote self-awareness and can enhance emotional resilience, enabling individuals to better cope with the challenges of chronic illness.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Physical health and mental well-being are closely intertwined. Adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise within one's limitations, and getting adequate sleep can have positive effects on both physical and mental health. Consultation with healthcare providers is important to tailor lifestyle changes to individual needs.
  • Setting Realistic Goals: Chronic illness might necessitate adjustments to one's goals and aspirations. It's essential to set realistic goals that take into account the limitations imposed by the condition. Celebrating small achievements can boost self-esteem and contribute to a positive outlook.
  • Open Communication: Honest communication with healthcare providers, as well as friends and family, about one's emotional struggles is crucial. Medical professionals can offer guidance on managing mental health alongside the physical aspects of the condition.
  • Engaging in Enjoyable Activities: Pursuing hobbies and activities that bring joy can provide a much-needed emotional outlet. Engaging in creative endeavors or leisurely activities can act as a distraction from the challenges of chronic illness.


Managing mental health with a chronic illness is a complex journey that demands a multifaceted approach. Recognizing the profound impact of chronic health issues on mental well-being is the first step toward effective management. By seeking professional support, building a support network, practicing mindfulness, making healthy lifestyle choices, setting achievable goals, and maintaining open communication, individuals can mitigate the mental effects of chronic illness and foster a better quality of life.

As we continue to unravel the intricate relationship between mental health and chronic illness, it becomes evident that holistic care is essential. By addressing both physical and mental aspects of well-being, we can empower individuals to navigate the challenges posed by chronic health conditions while maintaining their mental resilience.

Written by: Khadija Manzoor, LPC, CRC

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff specializing in therapy and psychiatry services. Clarity Clinic currently offers Medication Management and Therapy Services across Illinois. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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World Health Organization. (2019). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates.

American Psychological Association. (2021). Chronic Illness and Mental Health.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2020). Chronic Illness & Mental Health.

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