Reviewed by Alison Heru, MD

Learning to live with chronic illness is stressful. Stress causes changes in chemicals in the body that can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which commonly accompany chronic medical illnesses. Patients and family members usually experience feelings of loss and sadness and feelings of anxiety when physical activity becomes more limited. There is a close relationship between mental well-being and physical symptoms. Anxiety and depression often go together.

If symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety are acknowledged and treated quickly, then patients feel better and their physical symptoms also improve.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety include physical symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness, shakiness, headache and dizziness as well as psychological symptoms, such as fear of what will happen, excessive worrying about who will care for you, and excessive worrying about illness progression.

 

Treatment

Treatments of anxiety include medications and psychotherapy, either individual or family psychotherapy. Medications for anxiety include antidepressants, anxiolytics and other medications. Individual psychotherapy and family therapy can provide support and encouragement as well as teach you and your family how to set new goals and develop new coping strategies. You and your physician can choose which treatments suit you best.

Understanding the role of anxiety in chronic medical illness is an important step in self-care.

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