Chronic illness and impairment involves many psychological complexities and may lead to a variety of stressors and emotions that are difficult to cope with. This can result in depression, helplessness and a sense of isolation. It is estimated that up to one third of individuals with a chronic medical condition experience symptoms of depression. Once diagnosed, people must make a variety of significant adjustments to the particular demands of their illness. In addition, one may be faced with changes in one’s relationships and the necessity of confronting one’s mortality.
Learning to cope with one’s medical illness may include dealing with the specifics of the treatment, maintaining confidence and a positive self-image, and coping with negative emotions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals find new ways of coping with a health problem and improve overall quality of life.
Many medical illnesses are also accompanied by physical pain which may affect one’s ability to carry out daily activities as well as one’s mood and general sense of well being. Chronic pain creates stress which in turn leads to further sensations of pain. This can become a continuous cycle.
Various cognitive-behavioral strategies can be implemented to address the specific needs of individuals who experience pain. For example, identifying thoughts that reflect negative beliefs about pain is an important part of treatment and can offer one a greater sense of control. CBT is an empirically validated treatment for general health problems and pain management.
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