A chronic illness is one that persists over time without an easily definable beginning, middle and end. While the suffering that accompanies a chronic illness can usually be alleviated to some extent, the illness itself is usually not curable. Often, society feels more comfortable in dealing with acute illnesses that can be treated and cured. This is easy to understand when we consider that society tends to value achievement and action. We prefer to deal with diseases that have a distinct cause.  Then treat them with medication or other interventions, and wait for the healing to begin. Chronic illnesses are not amenable to such quick fixes. They are conditions that we have to learn to live with. Lacking social support, the task of adapting to a chronic illness can be a major challenge.

Our lifespans have increased enormously over the past century. Many of us will live into our eighties or longer. However, the rise in expected longevity brings with it the increased probability that we will suffer from one or more physical diseases. The incidence of heart disease, stroke, and cancer is high in Western societies. There is currently a diabetes epidemic that is associated with obesity due to diet and lack of exercise. Adults are more prone to developing diabetes, but an alarming number of children now experience type II diabetes. Many people develop immune-deficiency diseases such as lupus. These diseases are often an outcome of lifestyle choices. Given the length of our lifespans, there is a high probability that a health crisis will come into our lives at some point.

Living with Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness brings many issues to the fore. One of the primary experiences of those with chronic illness is the challenge of realizing that their lives have changed, often permanently. Not only do they have to deal with the many changes that the illness will bring to their lifestyle and future plans, but they have to deal with the difficulty the illness presents to their loved ones, friends, and work associates.

Click to read Adapting to a Chronic Illness Newsletter.