Coping with the Anxiety and Depression That Can Accompany Serious Health Challenges

stress level conceptual meter indicating maximumDaily stresses are a normal part of everyone’s life. Add in a chronic or serious health problem to the mix and it can tip the balance to a level of stress and anxiety that feels almost unmanageable.

Eye problems can add to these negative feelings as they can cause changes in personal appearance, present difficulty with doing tasks previously performed with ease (e.g., reading, driving), prevent participation in leisure activities, create an unexpected financial burden, and also produce pain and discomfort. All of these factors can contribute greatly to anxiety and depression. How does one cope in the face of such obstacles? 

First, know that these feelings are a normal part of dealing with a serious health issue. A research study published in Health Services Research noted that people who undergo a serious health event are three times more likely to seek out mental health services and medication to deal with the accompanying emotions brought on by the health event. The feelings can certainly be overwhelming and mental health professionals can help ease that burden. In fact, the authors of this study found that those patients who addressed their mental health needs in addition to their physical medical treatment had better outcomes and fewer complications.

The Dry Eye Zone offers some coping tips to help you get through these times of increased stress and anxiety. These are applicable not only to dry eye sufferers, but others as well who are living with daily eye-health concerns:

  • Recognize that these feelings of grief, stress, and anxiety are normal when dealing with a serious or chronic health condition. Give yourself time to validate these feelings and know that there will be better days.
  • Take ownership of your illness and be your own advocate and champion as you deal with your condition.
  • Read and research all you can about your condition, treatments, and strategies for managing and compensating for symptoms.
  • Connect with others who share your health concerns whether through local support groups, online networking, or patient support organizations.
  • Talk directly to your health-care providers about your feelings. They are great resources in helping you overcome both the physical and emotional difficulties of your condition.

But how much stress is too much? A screening test offered by Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting good mental health, can help you determine whether you might be experiencing symptoms of clinical depression and should seek out professional assistance. Your health-care team or local hospital can provide referrals to mental health professionals to help you obtain an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

If you are experiencing a great deal of stress and anxiety related to your medical condition, perhaps it’s time to give these issues as much attention as a physical health problem. What strategies have helped you get through difficult times?