How a Psychologist Can Help If You Have a Chronic Illness

If you're living with chronic illness, psychotherapy can help to maximize your strengths. We tell you how and why.
How a Psychologist Can Help If You Have a Chronic Illness
Sara González Juárez

Written and verified by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 02 November, 2022

If you suffer from a chronic illness, you may not have considered seeking help from a psychologist. That’s because you tend to think that what’s happening to you has nothing to do with your mental health, so you don’t even consider the possibility of seeking psychological help.

However, everything physical has a psychological correlation. Whether at a biological level, due to changes in your body, or for the simple fact of having to endure a series of symptoms for life, your mind is going to be affected. Even if you adapt to a new lifestyle and don’t develop any secondary disorders, such as depression, psychological intervention is positive.

Therefore, we’re going to explain therapeutic intervention in chronic illness. It’s an area of psychology that’s seldom discussed but is incredibly beneficial.

Senior woman thinking
Any chronic disease forces us to relearn how to live, usually under circumstances that are perceived as negative.

The physical and the mental are united

A physical illness inevitably has a psychological correlation. Nevertheless, this doesn’t have to be part of the symptoms of the condition. For example, there are some chronic illnesses such as hypothyroidism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis that lead to depression.

Although symptoms of mental illness usually disappear as you adjust to your new life, they might remain, even if your physical health improves. How should you deal with this intangible element that causes you pain and prevents you from leading the life you used to have, but that no one mentions anymore?

Benefits of going to the psychologist if you’re suffering from a chronic illness

Your chronic illness is here to stay. It modifies your habits and gradually deteriorates your health. So let’s summarize the benefits of having professional support in this situation:

  • It allows you to adopt a realistic lifestyle. You might feel reluctant to change your life in light of your illness. However, psychotherapy will help you change your habits and adopt a realistic and positive perspective.
  • It helps you understand your emotional state. Understanding a chronic disease isn’t only limited to how it modifies your body. You also need to identify and work on the effect it has on your mood and emotions.
  • It works on the ‘what should’ve been’. The nostalgia that ties you to the life you led before your illness can cause you a great deal of discomfort and sadness. Accepting the disease and all that it entails will be discussed in a psychological consultation.
  • It strengthens your motivation. At the end of the day, you don’t only need to manage the negative aspects of your illness but also find new goals and continue living. Therapy can help.
  • It prevents psychological disorders. Inadequate adaptation to your illness predisposes you to develop psychological conditions such as depression, eating disorders, and many others. This is worked on in therapy to help prevent their appearance.
Adult woman at the psychologist
Going to a psychologist when you have a chronic illness encourages you to learn new lifestyles and thus improve your well-being.

What does a psychologist do when you’re suffering from a chronic illness?

As a rule, the action taken in therapy will focus on two fundamental pillars: your emotions and how you manage them.

Your emotions and chronic illness

Chronic diseases, in their nature, carry a certain degree of discomfort that varies in intensity. Obviously, this discomfort is reflected in your state of mind, but it’s not always analyzed in detail.

Each person and their circumstances give rise to a different scenario. That’s why a personalized intervention is necessary.

Any intervention with respect to your emotions will focus on self-knowledge and management. With self-knowledge, you identify the specific events that cause you emotional distress and gain a deeper understanding of these emotions. Management refers to the subsequent work you carry out with them. This leads us to the next section.

Behavioral interventions

Accepting an illness and finding new meaning in your life isn’t just a matter of exploring your own mind. By going to a psychologist, you’ll also learn to acquire new habits that improve your day-to-day life living with chronic illness. These habits will not only help you alleviate the symptoms of the disease itself, but also make you stronger mentally. For example, if you suffer from diabetes, learning about a suitable diet, the effectiveness of the medication, and adequate sleep hygiene, it’ll improve your physical and mental life.

Finding new projects to work on, breaking down stigmas about your illness, and taking charge of your life when all seemed lost. You can achieve all this and more with effective psychotherapy. So, if you suffer from a chronic illness, don’t hesitate to visit a psychologist. After all, you deserve to be happy, no matter what’s happening to your body.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Muñoz Molina, F. J., & Ruiz Cala, S. L. (2007). Terapia cognitivo-conductual en la esquizofrenia. Revista colombiana de psiquiatría36(1), 98-110.
  • Alpi, S. V., & Quiceno, J. M. (2012). Calidad de vida relacionada con la salud y enfermedad crónica: estudios colombianos. Psychologia. Avances de la disciplina6(1), 123-136.
  • Maidana, G. M., Lugo, G., Vera, Z., Acosta, P., Morinigo, M., Isasi, D., & Mastroianni, P. (2016). Factores que determinan la falta de adherencia de pacientes diabéticos a la terapia medicamentosa. Memorias del instituto de investigaciones en ciencias de la salud14(1).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.