What Is Chronic Illness?

According to the US National Center for Health Statistics, chronic illness is defined as, “An illness that lasts 3 months or more.” They generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, which means that those who live with chronic illness usually have to adjust their lives around their health needs.

Chronic illnesses are characterized by:

  • Complex causes

  • Many risk factors

  • Long latency periods (time between onset of the illness and feeling its effects)

  • A long illness

  • Functional impairment

Due to the fact that they do not fix themselves and generally are not cured, they continue to persist throughout one’s life. Many chronic illnesses need intensive, ongoing management.


Common Chronic Illnesses

Here are some major chronic conditions, although there are many more that can be considered chronic:

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Lung cancer

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Arthritis

  • Osteoporosis

  • Asthma

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Chronic kidney disease

Common Mental Health Issues With Chronic Illness

Chronic illness and its treatment can bring about mental health problems problems, such as:

  • Learning to live with the physical effects of the illness

  • Emotions surrounding with treatments

  • Maintaining emotional balance to cope with negative feelings

  • Maintaining confidence and a positive self-image

  • Changing the way you interact with loved ones

  • Social isolation

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • High levels of stress

If you are living with mental health effects from a chronic illness, click here to be paired with a therapist who can help.

Ways To Cope With Chronic Illness

There are many ways to lead a positive, healthy life while living with a chronic illness. Some tips:

  • Find information – this can help if you feel helpless or out of control

  • Accept emotional support from others, such as family and friends

  • Join a support group

  • Set concrete, short-term goals to restore certainty, power and control

  • Think about possible outcomes and discuss them with your doctors

  • Work with a talk therapist experienced with chronic illness (click here to work with one)