Anxiety and Living with Long Term Conditions like Arthritis

A Long Term Condition (LTC), sometimes called a chronic disease, is an illness that cannot yet be cured, but can usually be controlled and managed. Examples of LTCs include arthritis, diabetes, asthma, and migraines, to name a few. It can be scary for someone to learn they have an LTC, and will have to live with it for the rest of their life. However, once they are able to accept that the condition is a part of them, they can begin to manage their symptoms and maintain a happy, healthy life.

Arthritis is one such LTC, which causes pain and inflammation in a joint. It affects over 10 million people in the UK and can affect people of all ages, making it the most common cause of disability in the UK. 

When you are first told that you will have to live with an LTC such as arthritis, some people experience stress and anxiety. For example, many people begin to worry about how their condition will affect the way they live, or interfere with day-to-day tasks such as household chores, hobbies and even their job. This is often when anxiety and stress show themselves. 

Stress and anxiety are often thought of as the same, but they are different. Stress is most often caused by external influences and triggers, while anxiety is an internal response we feel within ourselves. Stress can show itself as different emotions, such as anger or worry. Anxiety may start as the result of stress, and may manifest as a particular feeling of fear, dread and apprehension. We have probably all experienced symptoms of anxiety: the heightened state of awareness around you, the tummy tensing, perhaps sweating, a dry mouth, finding it difficult to breathe and perhaps tingling in the hands and/or mouth. This is often referred to as ‘fight and flight’. These are normal bodily responses when facing a threat where you need to run or fight for your life. The symptoms can be frightening. It is therefore important to recognise these symptoms as a normal bodily response when faced with certain triggers, and learn how to relax when you are feeling this way. 

More often than not when experiencing anxiety, you may not know the root cause of the feeling. It is therefore important for the person to find out the root cause. Perhaps keep a note book and write down what you are thinking, how your body feels, when the symptoms begin and end. Where are you going? What are you doing? What are you thinking? Over time, by examining what you write, you may be able to find the triggers and the root cause whenever you starting feeling anxious. Sometimes, however, it is important to ask for the help of others. You may seek the professional help of a counsellor, a clinical hypnotherapist, and/or engage in cognitive behavioural therapy. Therapists may help you discover the root cause of your anxiety and find different ways to overcome this challenge. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, is one way to change the way you think about the root cause of your anxiety, and find a way for you to take back control. If one approach doesn’t work for you, try another approach until you find the one that works for you!  

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