How a Person Adjusts to Chronic Illness

Dealing with a chronic illness or terminal disease is definitely one of the hardest ordeals a person will ever go through. It might seem a little impossible – but with the right mindset, the help of a professional and full support of his family and friends, a person can live peacefully and happily despite having a compromised health.

mature woman sitting on bed and having stomach ache

Here are some factors which affect how a person copes with chronic illness:

  1. Unresolved grief or anger from the past
  2. Past experiences with illness
  3. Personality before the illness
  4. Lifestyle changes caused by the illness
  5. Familial and individual resources for dealing with stress
  6. Codependency in the family system
  7. Stages of individual and family cycle


Stages of Dealing with Chronic Illness

  1. Denial – This is the first stage in adjusting to chronic illness. Most patients are in a state of shock when learning about the illness for the first time. They even get swayed easily by natural remedies and so-called medical cures on the internet. They also get second or third opinions hoping that there’s something wrong with the first diagnosis. Other patients try to go back to their usual routine and pretend like nothing happened or the disease wasn’t there.
  2. Fear – Eventually, patients realize the unfortunate truth – the disease is real and inside them. This leads them to the second stage which is fear. Patients get numb with fear of the unknown, the unpredictable. They get stuck with questions like what’s going to happen to their bodies, how many days they have left, how are people going to react and a lot more. Most patients will try to gather as much information as possible about their illness.
  3. Anger/Frustration – The third stage is anger or frustration. Most patients ask the questions: why did this happen to me and why me of all people. They hate the fact that they can’t work or live like before and it makes them feel useless.
  4. Grief/Depression – The fourth stage is grief or depression. Patients grieve for the loss of their old selves, old lives and old habits. Because of the illness, everything has now changed and will never be the same again. Patients will no longer be able to follow their original plans, goals and dreams. This is also a grieving process for the family members.
  5. Acceptance – This is the final and last stage of dealing with a chronic illness. It usually takes several years before a patient gets to this stage. In this stage, the patient has fully accepted his compromised health and has learned how to adapt to his new lifestyle and routine. Just like what Bruce Campbell said, “Acceptance involves the willingness to build a new life”.