Long term health conditions
A long term or chronic physical health condition is a health problem that requires ongoing management over a period of months, years, or longer. A long term physical health condition is usually one for which a cure is not readily available, but can be managed with medical intervention. In some instances, it may be a condition whereby the course of treatment is lengthy or unclear. Conditions which fall under long term or chronic health conditions include but are not limited to, cancer, epilepsy and other neurological conditions, cardiovascular disease, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), joint disorders or physical disability.
Chronic physical health difficulties are associated with high levels of uncertainty. People frequently find they need to change their behaviour, or perhaps even lifestyle, in order to properly manage their condition. It can also mean enduring repeated treatments which can be physically and mentally demanding. These are some of the factors that make adjustment to long term medical illness challenging.
Many people with long term physical health conditions also suffer mental health difficulties. The most commonly experienced include: depression, anxiety, and dementia in the case of older people. This comorbidity can further impact quality of life as living with both physical and mental ill health can be stressful and debilitating. The latest research shows our physical and mental health are inextricably linked. Therefore, it can be harder to manage a chronic physical health condition alongside coping with depression or anxiety.
- Try to maintain a healthy routine. Making good choices when it comes to diet and exercise can impact how you experience the world and your mental wellbeing. It can also have positive effects on your physical health.
- Stay involved with your care plan. A collaborative process between you and your physicians can support your understanding of your condition, ensure any treatments prescribed consider your needs, and may enable you to feel more in control.
- If this is a new physical health condition, try to name this life change. By acknowledging things are changing and validating how you are feeling, it may help you move further towards acceptance.
- Connect with others. Positive relationships can help you to feel valued and provide additional support when necessary.
- Seek support if you need to. Everyone is different and will adjust to the experience of a long term health condition in their own way. If you are finding it hard to adjust, it may be helpful to reach out to someone to talk to. This could be a friend, family member or a healthcare professional. Additional support will help you to better manage your condition.