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The Many Emotions of Chronic Arthritis

Emotional Impact of Arthritis: One Emotion Leads to Another


Updated June 18, 2010

Physical aspects of arthritis are manifested in pain and other symptoms. The gamut of emotions which coincides with the physical problems are equally important.

Arthritis affects a person's life and changes their reality on many levels. Physically, your body does not perform as it once did. You face everyday challenges such as:

As it becomes necessary to find other ways of doing things and depend on other people for care and help, it becomes imperative to acknowledge the emotional aspects of arthritis.

The expectations of what you are able to do changes as the disease changes. As the disease evolves over time, it affects:

  • abilities
  • responsibilities
  • relationships
  • personal identity

Emotions Of Arthritis

  • Concern: As you first experience arthritis symptoms, there is concern over what is happening.

    After consulting with a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in arthritis and related conditions), the concern is directed toward the results of your medical exam.

  • Fear: Concern can quickly turn into fear as the uncertainty of the illness becomes the focus. The long-term prognosis may be feared.
  • Denial: The most powerful emotion which attempts to take over other prevalent emotions is denial. Avoiding the reality of the situation and continuing to live life as if unaffected by the disease is used as a coping mechanism. In terms of coping, denial is used positively. However, harm can be done if denial leads to activities which exacerbate symptoms.
  • Relief: A definite diagnosis of your early symptoms can give you a sense of relief. You feel more in control, because you know what you are facing. This relief is temporary, since a diagnosis is not the precursor to a cure.
  • Frustration: Frustration is a common emotion for people living with arthritis. Frustration mounts when dealing with:
    • limitations
    • loss of ability
    • decreased mobility
    • increased fatigue
    • other changes

    Lifestyle changes caused by arthritis are often difficult to accept.

  • Unfairness: Often regarded as jealousy, envy, or the "why me" syndrome. An overwhelming sense of loss from all the lifestyle changes can lead to feelings of unfairness and being shortchanged. You may look at other people and wonder why you and not them.
  • Anger: Many aspects of arthritis can lead to anger.Circumstances that may lead to anger include:

    In contrast, angry feelings may occur when loved ones hover over you, try to control your life, or affect your need for independence. Anger is an emotion people encounter intermittently throughout the course of the illness.

  • Loss Of Control: At some point it is realized that arthritis is the determining factor in many situations. The disease must be respected because it is the reason for changes that are necessary. You no longer control every situation because the disease becomes a major factor.
  • Devastation: As plans and goals are forced to be altered, an air of devastation can be caused by:

    A person suffering so much loss often feels depleted and robbed by their ill-health.

  • Hopelessness: Self-destructive feelings such as hopelessness can surface if you become swallowed up by your sorrow. Sadness is a normal emotion that we all feel at times. It's not the same as depression. If you give up or surrender to the negative impact of arthritis without any regard to the remaining positive aspects of your life, hopelessness will prevail.
  • Mourning: An arthritis sufferer will go through a process of mourning from:
    • the realization that life has forever changed
    • the accumulation of personal loss

    Just as the death of a loved one is met with a period of mourning, the loss of dreams and the loss of the person you once were must also be permitted a period of mourning.

  • Coping: A person living with chronic arthritis can develop a change in perspective. A special, humble camaraderie can develop among people coping with arthritis. Coping skills can be improved through:

    Solving difficult issues imposed by arthritis helps people "live with" the illness.

  • Acceptance: At the point when you learn to accept your arthritis and not fight the disease, you become liberated and begin to concentrate on:

    With acceptance, you reap the benefits of living wisely "with" the disease.

  • Hope: Positive attitude can help you adjust to life with a chronic disease. The emotion of hope must also exist when searching for better treatment and a better quality of life.

Source: Facing Emotions, Living With A Chronic Illness, Elizabeth Kublar-Ross


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