COLUMN: Psychological effects of chronic illness are often underestimated

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Chronic illness is at times understated and perhaps not given the attention it warrants.

When we think about chronic illness we often consider the physical symptoms, however what we can overlook is the psychological effect this can have on an individual.

Recently I attended a seminar on a chronic illness and whilst inspired by the people in the room who were affected by this, I felt a little ashamed I hadn’t taken the time to gain a deeper understanding of its effects.

Consider suddenly realising you are no longer able to do some of the things you have always been passionate about doing, or even the everyday things we often take for granted becoming a challenge. Consider being forced to choose between either missing out on something you really enjoy or doing it, but with severe pain.

Whilst it is perhaps easy to be sympathetic initially, it is only natural for those supporting to eventually become frustrated. This doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s an inevitable consequence of not being able to understand the pain and suffering somebody is going through.

If you have somebody close to you who has a chronic illness, it is easy to feel inconvenienced, but effectively if you are displaying this around the individual, you are making it about you and ultimately keep in mind this is about them.

As family, friends, partners, we can play an important supporting role. Of course we are unable to take the pain away, however what we can do is exercise patience and sensitivity. With all the emotions people affected by chronic illness are experiencing, we can ensure guilt is not one of these. Remember it’s about them and not you.

Asking the right questions and being there to listen is a good starting point and whilst you can’t provide a miracle cure, you can ensure your support isn’t something else they need to worry about.