Group therapy session with woman lending arm of support to man frowning

Being Chronically Ill Affects My Mental Health

Last updated: October 2022

Who needs therapy? I think we are past the point of people thinking that therapy is for “crazy people.” If that were the case, we would all be considered crazy. Therapy is for anyone who may need someone to talk to about whatever is bothering them. Yes, there are some people who need therapy for things such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. Those with chronic illness are suffering too and could use the mental health department to learn about coping mechanisms.

Why do I go to therapy?

I am chronically ill. I do not know about you, but I see a therapist. Seeing a therapist is actually beneficial. I have been in and out of therapy since the mid-90s while in the military. At first, I was going due to military stress and family. As the years went on, all the things that were physically wrong kept piling up on my plate. This added to work stressors. One of the first things that started were my migraine headaches, as well as some accompanying symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

How can individual therapy help?

There are different types of therapy that can help someone who has an illness. One of those is individual therapy. They can give you different coping skills to use. The coping skills can help you when the pain is overbearing. The therapist will also discuss what is bothering you, and you can come up with a plan to deal with the issues. I like the one-on-one therapy sessions for several reasons. First, it is more private. There are some things that people may not want to disclose when there are several people in the room. You get more time in which you speak directly with the provider. When you first start, they can develop a plan with just you in the room. I think this is more beneficial to someone who is more reserved. If you do not like speaking in a group or disclosing your personal information, individual counseling may be more your style.

How can group therapy help?

Another type is group therapy. Group therapy can be helpful as there are different classes that can be taught. One such class is a chronic pain class. There, everyone is dealing with some type of chronic pain. This is one that I truly enjoyed, as I knew that people could understand that we all experience different levels of pain. I actually was an inpatient once for migraines/vertigo, and the transport team brought me from my room to attend a chronic pain group!! I did not think I would be attending that week. Lol.

What techniques did I learn? In the group setting, we went over techniques to help with the pain, like mindfulness, meditation, and guided imagery. My favorite of them all is guided imagery. With this, you can use something pre-recorded, voice-guided by the therapist, or remember how to do it by following an instruction sheet. You would picture yourself at your happy place to help you relax and be at peace. Where can you get help?If you need help finding a therapist, there are many resources out there. Here are several places to start. MentalHealth.govAnxiety & Depression Association of AmericaFind a chronic pain therapistLearn more about chronic pain and mental healthRemember, you are not alone.

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