Approximately 50% of Americans are living with a chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, or heart disease. People with chronic illnesses have to learn to live with the physical effects of the illness, including severe pain.
They also frequently face financial struggles as a result of expensive treatments. Furthermore, chronic illnesses also commonly cause social isolation. No wonder mental disorders are so common among people with chronic illnesses
What is chronic illness?
However, by definition, chronic diseases are non-communicable illnesses that are rarely cured entirely or at least take a long time to cure. The definition of chronic illness as per the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics states that it is a disease lasting three months or longer.
The most common chronic illness in the US is arthritis.
While most chronic illnesses
typically take a long time to develop, some illnesses, such as stroke or heart disease, show symptoms unexpectedly and may be life-threatening right away.
Meanwhile, other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or HIV, show symptoms less rapidly but may require intensive management over a long period.
The number of people living with chronic illnesses
is on the rise since the high mortality risk associated with many of these illnesses has dropped significantly.
Is chronic illness a disability? Not necessarily. The Americans with Disabilities Act states than a chronic illness must interfere with a person’s major life activities to be considered a disability.
Thus, it is possible that a person with chronic illness such as osteoarthritis may not be considered to have a disability at first. He may, later on, develop a severe mobility impairment and thus be regarded as disabled.
Chronic Illness Therapists in Popular Cities
Chronic Illness in men, women and children
that, in general, men suffer from chronic diseases that can be life-threatening, such as:
- coronary heart disease
- cerebrovascular disease
- cirrhosis of the liver
- kidney disease
Women, on the other hand suffer more from chronic disorders such as:
- gall bladder conditions
- migraine headaches
Men and women also respond differently to treatments of chronic diseases.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, children suffer from the following chronic illnesses:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Obesity, leading to complications such as:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- some cancers
- sleep-disordered breathing
- Developmental disabilities, including:
- Cerebral palsy
- Consequences of low birth weight and prematurity, including
- chronic lung disease
- retinopathy of prematurity (an eye disorder causing low vision or blindness)
- developmental delays
- Mental illnesses
Types of chronic illness
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in America, identifies the following as the different types:
- heart disease
- chronic lung disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- chronic kidney disease
Chronic illness and mental health
- According to a recent meta-study, about 30% of individuals affected by chronic illness are suffering from a mental disorder (most commonly depression or anxiety). The more severe the illness, the more frequent co-morbid mental disorders tend to be.
- For example, 40% of people who have been diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or have had a heart attack are also diagnosed with depression.
- When other mental disorders are included, the rate of co-morbidity is raised even higher. This is a significant problem since studies show that people with a co-occurring mental disorder and chronic illness tend to show more severe symptoms of both illnesses.
- For example, depressed individuals tend to experience more pain than those who do not suffer from depression.
- People who are diagnosed with both chronic and mental illness have higher medical and chronic illness counseling costs. They find it harder to adapt to their illnesses than people who have only been diagnosed with either a chronic illness or a mental disorder.
- Yet, many people who have a chronic illness often think that feeling depressed is part of their physical condition and fail to take help to address this highly treatable condition.
- Studies clearly show that having a chronic illness is a risk factor in developing a mental illness. Similarly, being diagnosed with depression, for example, puts a person at risk for developing a chronic illness later on as well. Doctors have speculated that this might be because many severely depressed people tend to neglect taking care of themselves, don’t see doctors regularly, eat a poor diet, and engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or substance abuse.
All of these things increase a person’s chances of developing many chronic illnesses.
How does therapy help?
for chronic illness can help a person adjust to their chronic illness and disability as well as guide them through their disability treatments.
A therapist offering disability counseling can also help a person cope with the pain that they may be experiencing.
Chronic illness therapy can help clients deal with many possible mental health problems, such as depression.
People with chronic illnesses who receive therapy tend to stick to their treatment plans much better than those who do not. It’s no wonder then that patients who receive psychotherapy have better medical treatment outcomes than those who do not receive such treatment.
Chronic Illness Therapists in united states
Types of therapy for chronic illness
Most people who seek therapy while affected by a chronic illness choose to work at least some time individually with a disability or chronic illness therapist. This makes it possible for the client to talk about some sensitive matters that they may not feel comfortable sharing in a group setting and receive treatment that is tailor-made for their individual needs.
Sometimes, only another person who is living with the same illness can truly understand and support you.
Ideally, groups composed of people affected by chronic illness should be led by a licensed mental health professional to ensure that the session time is used in a therapeutic way to learn new coping skills, for example.
Family and couples counseling
Regardless of the kind of therapy that the person with the chronic illness wants - individual, group, or family - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
is the most effective method for treating people with these conditions.
CBT is a short-term treatment that is highly structured and collaborative. During this therapy, a client will learn how their thoughts and beliefs affect their mood and how they can learn to change their negative thoughts into healthier, more positive ones.
As part of CBT, a therapist provides homework to the clients to work on in between sessions.
Cost of chronic illness therapy
When a person suffers from a mental illness caused by a chronic illness, the therapy is usually covered fully or partly by health insurance. If you must pay for such treatment yourself, the fee is typically between 60 and 100 USD depending on the training and experience of the therapist.
Most people see their therapist once a week. The treatment length varies, depending on the type of therapy given and the intensity of the symptoms.