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Stress, Anxiety, Body Image-Chronic Illness

Updated on March 14, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession, and I enjoy writing about medical issues. I'm also interested in history, genealogy, and travel.

At the End of His Rope


Chronic Illness Stress

Stress, anxiety, body image changes with chronic stress happen to people of all ages that are living with a chronic illness. Living with a chronic illness is tough for anyone, an adult or child, as you juggle medications, doctor appointments, your regular routine in the home is no longer regular, and at the same time you are dealing with stress, anxiety and body image changes.

The doctors are focused on the disease, and the treatment regarding tests and medications. You are learning about the disease and how to cope on a day by day basis. No one usually helps you deal with the anxiety, stress or possible body image changes that are occurring along with this illness. Your family is also trying to adapt to your chronic illness and all its ramifications.

Teen Anxiety and Depression

Chronic Illness for Teens with Depression

When an adolescent becomes ill things are even more complicated. Adolescence alone is a stressful developmental process, even for physically healthy teens. So chronic illness occurring during adolescence further complicates their development.

Hospitalizations, surgery if necessary, all intensify concerns about physical appearance; it interferes with the process of gaining independence and disrupts changing relationships with parents and friends.

Plus, adolescent development issues complicate a teen’s transition toward taking responsibility for their illness. Since teens are typically focused on the physical changes occurring in their body’s chronic illness intensifies their concerns with fear or distortions related to their illness. Anxiety and depression can be disabling in itself. They need encouragement to share their concerns related to their body, and they need to know about what to expect from the medications and treatments.

Chronic illness often interferes with a teens comfort in becoming less dependent on parents. Parents of chronically ill adolescents often are more resistant to the adolescent's efforts to act independently.

The things you can do to help include:

  • Being involved with the adolescent's in health care discussions
  • Discuss any current concerns concerning their illness or treatment choices
  • Teaching self-care skills related to their illness
  • Encouraging them to monitor and manage their own treatment if possible
  • Helping them to development coping skills to address problems and concerns.
  • Encourage them to spend time with their peers as possible

Term Effects of Chronic Stress

Stress of Chronic Illness Leads to Depression

While the adult isn’t dealing with the independence issues, their stress levels and anxiety often lead to depression while learning to cope with a chronic illness. Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between anxiety and stress VS depression. There is a GAD test administered by are best top healthcare professionals that help to answer that question which is posted on the Lexapro(an antidepressant) webpage

Gad Self Screener which is an anxiety depression test:

Not at All Several Days Over half the Days Nearly Every Day

  • Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge
  • Not being able to stop or control worrying
  • Worrying too much about different things
  • Having trouble relaxing
  • Beings so restless that it is hard to sit still
  • Becoming easily annoyed or irritable
  • Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen

(Adapted from Spitzer et al, 2006

If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made if for your to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people.

References: 1. Spitzer RL, Kroenke K, Williams JBW, Löwe B. A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD-7. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1092-1097. 2. Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Williams JBW, Monahan PO, Löwe B. Anxiety disorders in primary care: prevalence, impairment, comorbidity, and detection. Ann Intern Med. 2007;146:317-325

Stress Effects

Photo Courtesy of Summeranto
Photo Courtesy of Summeranto

This is the Depression Self Test on the Lexapro site:

  • I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • I sleep for 10 or more hours some nights.
  • I feel sad a lot of the time.
  • I don’t have much of an appetite and eat less than usual.
  • I eat more frequently and overeat more than usual.
  • My weight has either decreased or increased by more than 2 pounds in the past 2 weeks.
  • I have trouble concentrating and making decisions.
  • I believe I cause problems for others.
  • I have frequent thoughts of suicide or death.
  • I have less interest in people or activities that I usually enjoy.
  • My energy level and thinking speed have slowed down.

If you know of anyone having suicidal thoughts, call the suicide help line or 1-8100-273-8255.

References: 1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed (Text Revision). Washington, DC: APA; 2000. 2. Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology - Self Report (QIDS-SR). Available at: Accessed July 10, 2007

These tests can only be evaluated by a health care professional and I only included them in this hub so you would be aware of some of the symptoms they typically evaluate, not to do a self evaluation. Acute depression symptoms need professional help either with a medication or some therapy.

Top 10 Stress Busters

How to Overcome Anxiety Disorders

Your body doesn’t know the difference between fiction and reality. If you are stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, a drawer full of bills to pay or failing health your body reacts in the same way, just as strongly as if you were facing a life or death situation.

You can easily develop anxiety attack symptoms or may experience anxiety attacks. If you have a lot of problems, responsibilities or worries your emergency stress response may be ready at all times. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip it and the harder it is to shut it off.

Long term chronic stress disrupts nearly every body system from raising your blood pressure to suppressing the immune system, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, contributes to infertility and speed up the aging process. If you already have a chronic illness, this just further complicates things. Long term stress can actually rewire the brain leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. You must learn how to control stress and there are many methods to help.

Cat Stressed

Overcoming Panic Attack Photo Courtesy of Google image
Overcoming Panic Attack Photo Courtesy of Google image

Coping with stress

Tools to cope more effectively:

  • You may need your doctor to treat you with an anti-depressant.
  • Eat healthy and exercise.
  • Yoga is a great stress reducer.
  • Write in a journal daily
  • Set realistic goals so you are not setting yourself up for failure.
  • Learn to meditate and do so daily.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Learn to use guided imagery.
  • Learn self hypnosis.
  • Avoid excessive competition.
  • Manage your anger.
  • Choose to keep quite when you feel a negative reaction.
  • Use deep breathing several times a day.
  • Reduce the urge to be perfect accepting yourself the way you are.
  • Crying is okay as it is a stress reducer.
  • Be flexible.
  • Give yourself some me time each day.
  • Silence your phone at night.
  • Dab essential oils on your wrists at night to remind yourself to relax.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before bed.
  • Epsom salt is a natural stress reducer and relieves muscle and joint pain, so add 2 cups to your bathwater at night.

In Conclusion

We live in a very stressful world at this time and many people are dealing with greater stress and depression. The list above is incomplete as there are many ways to reduce your stress. If you are deeply depressed and have thought of suicide, please get some help. Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.

The most constant thing in life is change and nothing stays the same forever, so try to keep problems in perspective. Get help when you need it! Try to do some things for fun as humor is a wonderful stress reliever. Try to relieve that stress, anxiety and the effects of body image changes with chronic illness, as the negative emotions will surely not heal you and often exacerbate your symptoms.

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Crystal, You are absolutely right. I have experienced this and finally got to a place that I decided I was going to make the best of each day, pain or not. I chose different things to keep me busy that I could tolerate and take naps in the afternoons when necessary. Thanks for your comments.

  • Crystal Tatum profile image

    Crystal Tatum 

    8 years ago from Georgia

    It's absolutely true that chronic illness can trigger depression and other mental health issues. The toll that pain takes on the body and the emotions and mind is tremendous. The mental, spiritual, emotional and physical parts of us are all connected. Excellent job with this hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    enteconsult, My heart aches for the people of Japan in the war better living through. Certainly I have never experienced that level of stress. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Well done Pamela.

    Please see my message to people of Japan on

    Sending methods of stress reduction to Japan can help. We can't reduce their stressors,but hopefully we can reduce the deleterious effects by teaching non-stress methods such as you describe.

    Murray Grossan, M.D.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    teamrn, I agree that it is more difficult for a young person to get a chronic illness and difficult for the family. It robs them of their childhood as I consider anyone under 18 a child. I also agree with therapy as necessary. Thanks for your comments.

  • teamrn profile image


    9 years ago from Chicago

    Great article. The effect of chronic illness on teens can't be over stated; Teens are not 'mini-adults,' rather they have their own psychological makeup which affects their coping with a chronic illness.

    Those teenage years are a time when teens want to show that they are independent-yet when it suits them, they can be very dependent. A chronic illness which can-and usually does increase their dependency on adults- throws that dependency/independency balance out of whack, making for very stressful years for years to come.

    That chronic illness can rob a teen of so much; they need to become responsible-but still teenagers- so soon. It's entirely possible that they just entered teenage years. Gone too soon are the worry-free days of childhood. Even though their parents pay the tab, instead of being consumed with dating, etc, they're responsible for meds, pain control, body image changes-in addition to the body image changes of teenage years; and so much more.

    We need, as adults, to be so understanding and supportive of these teens and personally, I'd get any teen or child who shows difficulty with adjustment to a chronic illness to group or individual therapy so s/he can talk about it with peers or others with that same illness who understand.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nancy, Thank you for the comments.

  • nancy_30 profile image


    9 years ago from Georgia

    Thank you for sharing this very informative and interesting hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Support Med, I agree as sometimes you need an outside party to help you get perspective. Thanks for your comments.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 

    10 years ago from Michigan

    Very thorough hub! Stress relief is highly important and you have covered it well. It is important for all to seek help when necessary and not be ashamed of it. Voted/rated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hair Styling, Somehow I missed this comment and it sounds like you are definitely having some serious problems. I would recommend see your doctor in case there is some type of medical problem you might not be aware of and getting some counseling so you have someone to talk to that is not personally involved therefore they can be objective.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    peacefulparadox, The exercise would be the preferable way as I know the endorphins kick in, but it may depend on the seriousness of the depression. For instance, if someone was suicidal, then definitely a lot more help is necessary.

    Thanks for your comments and that is an excellent suggestion.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I too have heard that with enough chronic stress, it can lead to depression. Although some depression requires medical attention and pharmaceuticals, there are studies that shows that exercise can help reduce stress and sometimes even depression.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    lakeerieartists, Thank you for sharing your experience and for your comments.

  • lakeerieartists profile image

    Paula Atwell 

    10 years ago from Cleveland, OH

    Very well presented. I have walked in the shoes of depression, and it is real, and affects every moment of your life and of those around you. Stress is just a very large factor that adds to any chronic condition or illness.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Humagaia, Thank you for sharing such a meaningful comment. I feel exactly the same way. I have written about some of my physical problems because I write hubs about the disease. Hubpages helps me in many ways also. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • humagaia profile image

    Charles Fox 

    10 years ago from United Kingdom

    How true this is! I can vouch for every word. I can also add a few. Some have to deal with all this on their own. One is not always surrounded by family and friends for reasons thrown at you by life. But when life throws you a medical curve ball (or two in my case) one has to find ways to cope.

    If is fortunate that there are online communities that help in this and Hubpages is one of them. The people at the site do not need to know the in's and out's of your life but they assist in many other ways.

    Just writing about things you know takes your mind off the problems you have medically. Even chronic pain seems to ease when you are not aware of it as you into the miasma of the story you are relating.

    It also allows you to make the conscious decision to research all about the issues as one can use that research as a basis for hubs.

    Hubbers don't have to listen, but they do. And where possible they help. And I can assure you that not just physical assistance but virtual assistance aids enormously.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    keratisusm, Just because someone goes to church and maybe they are older or have a family doesn't make them better than you. Our responsibility is to act like we are taught in the Bible regardless of people distorting His word. It may be that you are not in the right church for you, or maybe some Christian counseling would help you sort out some of these feelings. I would probably distance myself from those individuals that are distorting the Word and it never seems to be worth arguing with them as it is a no win situation. It seems better to show you are a Christian by example with your actions. I hope this helps.

  • profile image


    10 years ago


    I experience tension in trying to be an active, vital, and empowering leader when at times it feels The Church believes single, never married, childless, women are the least meaningful part of the family. I also experience the tension of how to show love, respect, and grace to other believers, while also standing up for injustice and speaking out when God’s character or his Word is distorted, twisted, or made lukewarm.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Audry, I think it an often overlooked problem too because the doctor and patient focus more on the disease and this can be an important component. Thanks for your comments.

    kaltopesyd, I agree with you completely. Psychology is an important aspect of everything we do in life when you think about it and I certainly appreciate your comments.

  • kaltopsyd profile image


    10 years ago from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA

    Stress is always the 'determining factor' of an illness' course. It seems that the way a person deals with an illness determines the outcome - so a person who is stressed only worsens the condition. It's really interesting. This is why I love studying psychology because the mental/emotional/psychological aspect ties in to so many health conditions.

    I always like the way you present your info and this is no different. Great job.

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    10 years ago from Washington

    Great info, Pamela and so true. I find in my medical reports that fighting the depression part is the hardest part for physicians sometimes - not to mention the poor patients.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hello, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thank your for your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    10 years ago from London, UK

    A wonderful and well worked through hub. Great research.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Amber, I think that is a great suggestion. Thanks for your comments.

    Lorie, Once you face the surgery and get it over with those negative feelings will go away. I know I need surgery on my hand but had it on the other one and the recover was 2 months of hell so I keep putting it off. You made it through the last one, even though it was tough, so you will make it again. Best wishes for good health. Thanks for sharing.

    Jasper, Thanks for your very kind comments. They are appreciated.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    great hub very informative love the topic love the understandeing you have towards others thanks a lot

  • lorlie6 profile image

    Laurel Rogers 

    10 years ago from Grizzly Flats, Ca

    This is a terrific hub on a subject spoken of very infrequently. I guess this hits me in a personal way, since I have degenerative arthritis in my hips. I've been limping around town for years now and being 'that limping woman' is a source of embarrassment to me. I feel ugly and pitied.

    But I had one hip replaced last year. It is fantastic. I've been putting off the other one for about a year now, just because the recovery is so difficult. But I think it will finally happen sometime this Winter-then I won't have to feel the anxiety of any of it!

  • Amber Allen profile image

    Amber Allen 

    10 years ago

    Hi Pamela

    This is a well written hub on a very important subject.

    I would add treating yourself as one of the tools you can use in recovery. It doesn't need to be anything big or expensive but it helps improve your feeling of self worth.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Expand Your Mind, I think stress is not fully understood in relation to disease. Thanks for sharing your comment.

  • ExpandYourMind profile image


    10 years ago from Midwest USA

    Pamela99, this is good info -- particularly the info on the relationship of stress to physical illnesses. I had a doc relate hives episodes with tress a few years ago -- not as serious as a heart attack, but still something to consider.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Dobson, I am glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for the comments.

    LeanMan, Yes, I agree as I've had that unpleasant experience. Thanks so much for your comment.

    Viking, I couldn't resist the kitten with that panicked look. I'm glad you found some new information. Thanks for your comment.

  • viking305 profile image

    L M Reid 

    10 years ago from Ireland

    Very interesting hub Pamela. I found some of the information on stress and worry that you have written here new to me and enjoyed reading it. I aggree totally that our body is affected by stress and can cause physical illness as a result.

    Just to say that I am aware this subject is a serious issue but the photo of the kitten was so apt and funny. The poor little thing looked so panicked, just like I feel sometimes when I am under too much stress.

  • LeanMan profile image


    10 years ago from At the Gemba

    Very similar to living with someone with an addiction, great and very informative hub.

  • Dobson profile image


    10 years ago from Virginia

    Chronic ilnesses rob people of so much. You have a great amount of information here to benefit us. Great job arraning it so we can read about it and be beter prepared.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Prasetio, I am glad you learned some new things from the hub. Thanks for your comment.

    JY3502, I will think about the image size and thanks for the suggestion.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    10 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Very good hub Pamela. Might try downsizing a few of those images though. Very distracting from your content.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    10 years ago from malang-indonesia

    This is new for me. I know you have a lot of experience in medical field. Thanks for share about this topic. I get new knowledge of here. Thumbs up for you.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    K9keystrokesm I'm glad you learned a few new things and I certainly appreciate your comments.

    RevLady, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank your for your comments.

    Mutiny, I appreciate your comments.

  • Mutiny92 profile image


    10 years ago from Arlington, VA

    Extremely informative article! Nice job!

  • RevLady profile image


    10 years ago from Lantana, Florida

    I appreciate this informative hub as well as the scientific advancements that makes living more comfortably with these illnesses a present day reality.


    Forever His,

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    Very interesting that you point out how the body can not tell the difference between fiction and reality. Impressive information on the needed subject of Stress, Anxiety, Body Image Changes with Chronic Illness. I learned a great deal.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tom, Thank your so much for your comments.

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 

    10 years ago from Moundsville, WV


    Once again you have performed a public service with your well researched Hub. Thank you for writing this helpful Hub!!!!!!!!


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