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Mental Health

Developing Coping Skills Is Important as Reality Changes

People who live with a chronic illnesses like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and other invisible illnesses have a unique set of issues that must be resolved in order to live a fulfilled life.

  • Grieving the loss of their healthy body
  • Social isolation
  • Physicians, family and friends not believing that they are ill
  • Struggling to find their new role in school, work, family, and friendships
  • Biological changes in the brain as part of their illness
  • Mood changes due to medications
  • Being too fatigued to participate in activities that they enjoy

Counseling should be a requirement for anyone diagnosed with a chronic illness. As a healthcare practitioner, please suggest counseling as part of your healthcare regimen. For many with POTS, the sympathetic nervous system is overactive much of the time, which causes feelings of anxiety. Counseling can help to reduce stress and the physical symptoms that accompany it. Mental health and physical health are intricately tied together.

Counseling teaches patients new coping strategies. Counseling can help people with POTS to accept their limitations, learn to compensate for their illness, and develop an effective support system to help address physical limitations. When your physical life must be altered due to illness, you also need to also alter your thinking and expectations. This is nearly impossible to do without the correct tools. This is especially important for teenagers and young adults who are still developing both physically and mentally.

Learn to recognize feelings, thoughts, and behaviors through cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of counseling takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind your emotional upset, and thereby change the way you feel about the situations that are bothering you.

Look for a good counselor until you find the right match for you. You want to find someone who has experience in treating the chronically ill, or is willing to learn.  Encourage POTS patients to try new counselors until they find a good fit. An unsuccessful pairing the first time doesn't mean that another counselor won't be able to help. Their mental health is worth it!

The chronically ill are worthy and capable of living a meaningful life. The chronically ill can contribute to society in positive ways. Finding the right doctor, combination of medications, and a good counselor can allow people with POTS to learn to cope successfully with their limitations and live their best lives.

If you suspect that your patient is in distress or might be considering suicide, the time to act is now!  The lives of the chronically ill matter!  Please check out this website to learn more about suicide prevention in people with POTS.