Emotional Impact of Chronic Disease

Table of Contents

Chronic diseases are defined as long-term conditions that require ongoing management and care. Examples of chronic diseases include diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These conditions can have a significant emotional impact on individuals who are living with them.

The emotional impact of chronic disease can manifest in different ways, including depression, anxiety, stress, and fear. These emotional responses can be triggered by various factors, such as the physical symptoms of the disease, the impact of the disease on one’s daily life, the need for ongoing medical care and treatment, and the uncertainty surrounding the future.


One of the most common emotional responses to chronic disease is depression. Depression can be triggered by several factors, including the physical symptoms of the disease, the impact of the disease on one’s daily life, and the stress and anxiety that can occur with managing a chronic condition. Depression can also be an aftereffect of certain medications used to treat chronic diseases.


Anxiety is another common emotional response to chronic disease. Individuals living with chronic disease may experience anxiety due to the uncertainty surrounding the future, the impact of the disease on their relationships and career, and the fear of complications and potential hospitalization. Anxiety can also be triggered by the need for ongoing medical care and treatment and the financial burden that can come with managing a chronic condition.


Stress is another common emotional response to chronic disease. Individuals living with chronic disease may experience stress due to the ongoing management and care required to manage their condition. It can include monitoring blood sugar levels, taking medication, attending appointments with healthcare providers, and making lifestyle changes. Stress can also be triggered by the impact of the disease on one’s daily life, such as the need to make dietary changes or limit physical activity.


Fear is another emotional response that is often experienced by individuals living with chronic diseases. Fear can be triggered by the uncertainty surrounding the future, including the possibility of complications and potential hospitalization. Fear can also be triggered by the impact of the disease on one’s daily life, including the need for ongoing medical care and treatment and the potential for disability.


The emotional impact of chronic disease can also significantly impact relationships. Individuals living with chronic disease may experience strain on their relationships with family members, friends, and romantic partners. It can be due to the impact of the disease on their daily life, the need for ongoing medical care and treatment, and the emotional toll of managing a chronic condition.

In addition to the emotional impact on individuals living with chronic disease, there can also be a significant impact on caregivers. Caregivers can experience a range of emotional responses, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Caregivers may also experience feelings of guilt, frustration, and helplessness as they struggle to support their loved ones while managing their own emotions.

There are several strategies that individuals living with chronic disease and their caregivers can use to manage the emotional impact of chronic disease. These strategies include:

Seeking professional support

 Individuals living with chronic disease and their caregivers can benefit from seeking support from mental health professionals, such as psychologists or counselors. These professionals can provide tools and strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Joining support groups

Support groups can give individuals with chronic disease and their caregivers a sense of community and understanding. These groups can also allow individuals to share their experiences and learn from others.

Communicating with healthcare providers

Open communication with healthcare providers can help individuals living with chronic disease and their caregivers feel more informed and empowered in managing their condition.

Educate yourself about your condition.

One way to control the emotional impact of chronic disease is to educate yourself about the condition. Understanding the disease and its symptoms can help individuals feel more in control of their health and better manage the condition. Additionally, knowing what to expect can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Practice stress-reducing activities

Living with chronic disease can be stressful, and finding ways to manage stress is essential. Stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help manage stress and improve overall well-being. Additionally, engaging in enjoyable activities such as reading, listening to music, or spending some time with loved ones can aid in reducing stress and promote relaxation.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for individuals living with chronic diseases. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help manage symptoms and improve overall health. Additionally, avoiding smoking and high amount of alcohol consumption can help reduce the risk of further complications.

Practice self-care

 Practicing self-care, such as getting a minimum of 8 hours of sleep, eating a balanced healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity, can help individuals living with chronic disease and their caregivers manage stress and anxiety. Living with chronic disease can be emotionally and physically taxing, and it is essential to practice self-care. Practicing self-care involves:

  • Taking time for relaxation, such as taking a warm bath.
  • Practicing mindfulness.
  • Going for a walk in nature.

Additionally, self-care is essential to practicing good hygiene, maintaining a healthy & balanced diet, and getting enough sleep.

Seek professional help

Living with chronic disease can be challenging, and it is okay to seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, can support and guide individuals and their caregivers. Additionally, medical professionals can provide information on resources and treatments available to manage the condition.

Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals is essential for individuals living with chronic diseases. Goals should be achievable and should focus on what an individual can control. Additionally, breaking larger goals into smaller, more manageable steps can help individuals feel more in control and motivated.

Practice acceptance

Living with chronic disease can be emotionally challenging, and it is essential to practice acceptance. Acceptance involves acknowledging the condition and its impact on one’s life and learning to live with the disease rather than fighting against it. Practicing acceptance can help individuals feel more in control and improve overall well-being.

Take one day at a time.

Living with chronic disease can be overwhelming, but taking one day at a time is essential. Focusing on the present moment can help individuals feel more in control and reduce anxiety and stress.

Here we discuss this with Dr. Kim, an oriental medicine doctor, to get her thoughts on this topic.

NourishDoc: Hello everyone. So, we want to understand if there is any correlation between our emotions and does that culminate into a chronic condition very important. So, that’s what we’re going to talk to Doctor Kim. Doctor Kim is a doctor of Oriental Medicine, joining me live. Thank you so much, Doctor Kim, for joining me.

Doctor Kim: Hello, hi, nice to meet you. Thank you for this opportunity so I can share my experience and expertise. I’m very happy to be here.

Examples of correlation

NourishDoc: All right, So let’s understand, when we talk about emotional health, I mean, there could be such a wide variety, right? Someone could have gone through trauma when they were a kid, lost someone, or gone through some kind of an issue. So, what have you seen in your practice? Let’s talk about your experience and the correlation of that with the chronic condition.

Doctor Kim: One of the very common emotions that I see come up and how it directly affects physical health is grief. I see many patients with grief that are not dealt with, and it shows up as an upper respiratory condition. It could be coughing or upper respiratory infection, wheezing, or asthma, so I see that correlation. Another one I see a lot is anger repression showing up as a thyroid condition or liver condition, and a very common one is depression. Depression shows up pretty much across the board with any chronic disease.

What does the research say?

NourishDoc: Okay, and then let’s talk, you know, what is the research say about this?

Doctor Kim: So, there’s much research that has been done throughout the years; for example, there’s Jane Turner and Brian Kelly to talk about the Emotion of Chronic Diseases, and there has been research done about common psychological factors in chronic diseases as well, and they would talk about cardio disease diabetes asthma, arthritis, and osteoporosis and how those are complicated later on by emotional or psychiatric symptoms.

Research has also been done about the intersection of mental health and chronic disease by Grace Fernand and John Hopkins. So there’s quite a lot of research that has been done in the last fifty years in which, in the medical field, we realize it’s not the mind and the body separate. It’s the mind, and the body is a whole.

So how we’re doing emotionally and psychologically impacts our physical body and vice versa. If we’re not doing well physically, for example, let’s say our digestive system is not good. We’re not able to absorb nutrients such as calcium or potassium, we’re more prone to have depression, for example, or the brain chemistry is off because we’re not getting the nutrients or malnutrition or eating poorly or overindulging, for example, we have seen research of children, we hyper is tied to their diets, such as too much sugar or processed food.

So that both of them are connected, it’s not just oh a behavior is separate from the physical, or the physical is separate from the emotion. It’s tied to each other. We are humans; we are whole. We’re not just our mind, body, or thoughts like we are of us all together.

What Are Some Different Types of Therapies?

NourishDoc: Yeah, that’s so true, and then earlier, you know, we’ve all de-compartmentalized our bodies. If you think about it, 20 years or even a few years back, we always thought to look at exercise and diet and did not understand your point. So now, being an Oriental medicine doctor, you have a huge inbox, and it’s amazing. So what is the different type of therapies that you have used? This is not a big medical disclaimer to help your clients overcome this emotional trauma you discussed.

Doctor Kim: So Oriental medicines, as I said, this is the human being as a whole. They’re not just the body or the emotion or the organ system. I tend to look at the patient to see what is going on and what part of their body is out of alignment, and based on that, I will pick the tool.

Some the tools, for example, I have acupuncture I have herbal medicine I have nutrition, food therapy, I have lifestyle therapy, I have breathing breath work, meditation, exercise, and stretching, so there are different types of modalities depending on what the patient is presenting with and how they can I help them get better and an idea how the optimal health they want and since I am in the state of Florida, I’m also considered primary care physician a lot of the time I also use words of medicine to aid me in this.

Such as having them do blood work imaging, you know, so I can compare physiology what is going on and combine it with a more natural approach because many of my patients they’re tired of taking much medication that might not be taking care of their problem but just masking the symptoms. So I take a look at the whole. What else is going on in the body? How can we compliment? Every single aspect of their lives so there’s a balance and through that health, overall well-being.

Simple Tips For Self-Healing

NourishDoc: Okay. So, maybe you can talk to us to give an example, a small example of someone you treated; you know what it entailed and what you talked about acupuncture, herbs, and all that. So let me give us a brief example to help our viewers know what to look for. What do they have to do with simple tips or simple things you have used?

Doctor Kim: So usually, a patient comes and tells me they suffer something that everyone suffers right now. Let’s say stress, for example. It’s very common, and we are having two years of the pandemic. We have long periods of stress, which leads to anxiety or depression, So patients come with this. I ask them what the symptoms they’re getting are. Is it overthinking? Is it a problem with sleep? Is it of digestive issues? Or is there any tension in the body?

After the diagnosis, they tell me their symptoms, and I can choose whether we need to do acupuncture to regularize the nervous system. Do we do herbal medicine to help with your brain chemistry? Do we make lifestyle and food changes to get the nutrients to produce the right brain chemistry? If you have been working indoors for the last two years because of the pandemic, we need to add some movements from altered circulation and get some sunshine; maybe you are deficient in vitamin B from working indoors for a song.

So we can schedule for 10 minutes of sun every 3-4 hours, so it depends on what it is that’s going on that they are showing me. Then I prescribe different things. Much time I do all of these things because much time they need a little bit of everything, they need acupuncture, they need some herbal medicine, they need guidelines for food, what to eat, and what not to eat to help their condition. Sometimes I even have patients on a schedule like, okay, I need you to be in bed before eleven o’clock.

I need you to wake up at seven in the morning. What are the times for you to eat? Based on different Chinese medicine, we have to start a patterned rhythm in which every organ system has a very specific two-hour time which is the opt time to do a certain type of activity. So I also give them those guidelines because, unfortunately, we’re so busy in our society. We don’t listen to our bodies anymore. We don’t listen to our bodies anymore, we don’t listen to the signs, and we work, work, and just run as a machine, and we’re not paying attention anymore.

So part of what I do is also bring awareness of what our body is trying to tell us, why we are having the symptoms. A lot of the time, for example, not feeling well or depression could be that you are not in alignment with your life, not in alignment with who you are as a person; what makes you happy? When was the last time you smiled? When was the last time you laughed, right?

So, things are simple as that or even something like, when was the last time you had a glass of water or when was the last time you had a proper meal not in front of the computer checking emails or being in rushing from one meeting to another? Like very basic things that we as humans forget because of the lifestyle that we are used to performing and are not; we are not meant to live like this, leading to mental and physical health problems.

NourishDoc: Okay, So what would be, how should people start with like should they start with? What are the stepping stones or the simple things we can think of? You talked about so many things but told us just some simple things.

Doctor Kim: Let’s go back to basics. How many hours of sleep are you getting? Let’s get at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. How much water are you drinking? Must you drink half of the body weight, or Let’s get eight glasses of water? How much movement are you having throughout the day? Are you walking for at least 10 minutes, 20 minutes a day?

Let’s have at least three meals at a specific time of the day and not rush through it. One tip I’ll give for free is that every meal should have at least five different colors; only a few of us are doing that instead of thinking, what did I have carbs? Did I have protein? Did I have vegetables? No, think about five different colors. They have to be five, not the same shades of five different colors.

But for example, eat the rainbow. Right? The colors of the rainbow, pick 5 of those. If you have 5 of them, it’s more about it. Even if you have 10 minutes of sun per day, if you are not taking it because you are living in a cold place that may be snowy and you have to live inside the house, I suggest getting at least 10 minutes of sun.

Herbal remedies

NourishDoc: Any simple common herbs as you are a doctor of oriental medicine that you would suggest?

Doctor Kim: 90% of the population should be okay with ginger. Ginger in the tea as it helps digestion, ginger, peppermint, as soon as you are not allergic to it. For people living in the north, as long as they are not having any high blood pressure condition so cinnamon tea would be good as it helps in blood circulation because if the blood is flowing, it generally feels better. So, these are the common herbs that can be used. You can get it from any grocery store, and you don’t have to worry about it.

NourishDoc: Okay, well, thank you so much. The intention is to understand the correlation between emotional health and chronic condition. So it’s better to take care of your emotions. Any last-minute things?

Doctor Kim: I recommend taking 20 minutes per day for themselves to do something they love and enjoy, no phone, no children, no spouse.

NourishDoc: That’s hard to get, but we should all try. Thank you again, and thank you, everyone, for supporting us; stay tuned.


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