It Takes a Village – Psychologist

It Takes a Village – Psychologist

Patients with chronic conditions show an overwhelming 363% increase in risk for suicide attempts. This figure is startling and highlights the importance of patients’ care focusing on both the physical and mental aspects related to their condition. Associated psychological disorders are not uncommon among these patients. Many patients do not think to include a psychologist in their healthcare team, when in fact they should be a key part of it.

A New Way of Life

After receiving a chronic condition diagnosis patients are confronted with having to adjust to the new life they are facing, which may look nothing like they had planned it to look. Psychologists can be key to successfully navigating these unchartered waters for both the patient and their loved ones. This adjustment is not a simple process. Emotionally patients can feel helpless, angry or fearful, cognitively they may struggle with concentrating and short-term memory decline and there are likely to be new physical limitations with which they must contend.

Patients need to be taught new skills to successfully navigate life with a chronic condition. Some skills will be taught by their primary care physician, many skills require assistance from other healthcare practitioners, including a psychologist.

Better Together

Members of the patient’s support system might benefit from joining in sessions with the psychologist. Families or significant others can struggle to understand what the patient is experiencing both physically and emotionally, if not addressed this can cause the patient to feel isolated. Unrealistic expectations related to how the patient “should” cope with the illness can cause several difficulties. Families often report a sense of helplessness and fatigue, which can cause patients to feel as if they are a burden to their loved ones. A psychologist can help patients and families learn to listen and communicate more effectively with one another. These skills may strengthen bonds of social support, which contribute to better adjustment to a condition and quality of life.

Experience Matters

It can be important to select a psychologist with experience in chronic conditions. Psychologists routinely assess for suicide, but individuals with chronic invisible illnesses often do not present with the same symptoms as other at risk. Most people in the general population who are suicidal tend to have comorbid depression, people with chronic invisible illnesses may not present this way. Therefore, it is important to find someone with sufficient knowledge and experience, that can make a correct diagnosis and effectively work with other healthcare providers.

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. There are several ways to support research through the ANRF. Find out more and donate today.

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