Your physical health will directly impact your mood, emotions, and behavior. People struggling with chronic medical conditions may have difficulty maintaining positive mental health.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Depression is common among people who have chronic illnesses.” Talk therapy is the most common treatment for depressive symptoms and related mental health issues. Mindfuli is an app that can connect you with therapists and counselors trained to treat depression.
How Chronic Medical Issues Affect Mental Health
Chronic medical conditions can have adverse side effects on mental health. The most common co-occurring disorders are depression and anxiety. According to the previously mentioned article by NIMH, “Research suggests that people who have depression and another medical illness tend to have more severe symptoms of both illnesses.”
The most common side effects of co-occurring depression include:
- Lack of motivation
- Ambivalence about treatment
- Difficulty focusing
- Loss of interest
- Feelings of sadness, loneliness, or helplessness
- Suicidal ideations
- Changes to sleep or eating patterns
- Chronic fatigue
Treating depression through talk therapy and other methods can positively affect both conditions. Online apps like Mindfuli provide you with access to counselors and therapists who can help you manage depressive episodes and symptoms. Effectively coping with symptoms of depression will give you more energy to overcome challenges related to your chronic condition.
Common Chronic Medical Conditions
Depression is both the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder and a frequent symptom of chronic medical conditions, including:
- Stroke or heart attack
- HIV and AIDS
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Long COVID
Most ongoing medical conditions can lead to depression if they cause chronic emotional distress. In addition, physiological changes can also affect your well-being and mood. In many cases, you can successfully manage chronic medical issues with lifestyle changes and medical treatment.
Depression and Chronic Stress
Chronic conditions can change the way the brain responds to stress. According to Current Neuropharmacology, “Stressful life events could induce a series of psychological and physiological changes” that affect specific regions of the brain. In addition, they can also cause symptoms that increase the risk of developing mental health disorders like depression.
Stress is often a result of the anxiety, fear, or guilt some people feel when they cannot meet personal or societal expectations. Stigmas surrounding disability also play a potential role in the development of depression. If you feel pressured to take on more responsibilities than your body can handle, you may begin to feel anxious or sad.
Depression is connected to stress in the following ways:
- Chronic stress can lead to emotional or physiological changes that cause depressive symptoms
- Even minor depressive symptoms can cause emotional distress and stress responses
- Untreated clinical depression decreases quality of life and increases overall stress
- Stress responses and depression can develop independently and worsen symptoms of both conditions
A therapist will address stress related to your chronic condition and depression simultaneously to ensure you develop essential coping skills. Lowering stress can improve your chronic medical condition, overall well-being, and physical ability to function.
Depression Impacts Physical Health
Your physical health and how you cope with chronic medical conditions will directly affect your mental health and vice versa. Common symptoms of depression, including loss of motivation and fatigue, might make it difficult for you to maintain your physical health.
A few ways depression impacts most people with chronic conditions include:
- Resistance to change
- Feeling ambivalent about treatment
- Self-isolation and avoidance of medical care
- Intentionally missing medical appointments, follow-ups, and treatments like physical therapy
In cases where chronic conditions require specific exercises or activities to improve your ability to function, you might have difficulty maintaining a schedule. Depression can leave you feeling listless, sad, or hopeless. You might wonder why you should continue to put in the effort to manage your medical condition if it continues to cause you distress.
Those types of negative thoughts can have a severe effect on your physical health and increase overall stress. Therapy will help you find the motivation to continue moving forward each day.
Managing Depression While Living With Chronic Medical Issues
According to the Western Journal of Medicine, “[D]epression appears to result from specific biologic effects of chronic medical illness,” including:
- Central nervous system disorders (Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, etc.)
- Endocrine disorders (hyperthyroidism, etc.)
- Additional biological factors
Maladaptive behaviors and chronic stress contribute to the development of depression. You can manage both conditions by identifying underlying issues and problem-solving with your therapist to find a healthy solution. A therapist or counselor can also help you learn essential coping skills to manage your depression and lower overall stress levels.
You can successfully recover from the effects of depression. As your mental health improves, it can decrease the physical symptoms of your chronic medical condition.
Chronic medical problems can lead to the development of depression or other mental health issues. The effects of depression often worsen chronic medical conditions for people who do not have the necessary coping tools to manage stress. However, you can learn to cope with depression and decrease your chronic symptoms. You can heal from the damaging effects of depression by using online therapy tools like the Mindfuli app. Early treatment is the best way to avoid significantly increasing the side effects of your chronic medical condition. To learn more about Mindfuli and how we can help, call our office today at (888) 704-3004. We offer individualized therapy and counseling for people struggling with depression, chronic conditions, and other issues.