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The Many Emotions of Chronic Arthritis

One Emotion Leads to Another


Updated June 27, 2014

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Physical aspects of arthritis, manifested as pain and other symptoms, require our attention. A gamut of emotions that coincide 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 adjust how you do things or to depend on other people for care and help, you must recognize and acknowledge the emotional aspects of arthritis.

The expectations you had for yourself may change as the disease changes. The disease, as it progresses, may affect your responsibilities, relationships, and your personal identity. The emotional toll my be significant.

Emotions of Arthritis

  • Concern: As you first experience arthritis symptoms, you will be concerned. You don't immediately understand what is happening or what will happen going forward.
  • Fear: Concern can quickly turn into fear as the uncertainty of the illness becomes the focus. The prognosis is sometimes vague, especially at first, as you try to find the most effective treatment.
  • Denial: The most powerful emotion which affects many newly-diagnosed arthritis patients is denial. Avoiding the reality of the situation and continuing to live life as if you are unaffected by the disease is often a coping mechanism. Denial can be positive, as a short-term coping mechanism, but harm can be done if it leads you to non-compliance with your treatment plan.
  • Relief: A definitive diagnosis can give you a sense of relief. You feel more in control, because you know what you are dealing with. The sense of relief must continue as you realize you are doing everything you can to manage arthritis on a daily basis.
  • Frustration: Frustration is a common emotion for people living with arthritis. Frustration mounts when dealing with limitations and increasing disability.
  • Unfairness: An overwhelming sense of loss 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 inconveniences caused by the illness, the attitude of doctors and health care personnel, or lack of understanding from family and friends.
  • Loss of Control: At some point, you begin to realize that arthritis is a major factor in your life. The consequences of having a chronic disease affect decisions you make. The disease must be respected because it impacts your life significantly.
  • Devastation: As plans and goals are forced to change, you may feel devastated by financial loss, career loss, or family disruption
  • Hopelessness: Self-destructive feelings, such as hopelessness, can surface if you become swallowed up by negativity or sadness. 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: People with arthritis go through a period of mourning as they realize life has changed forever and as they experience a sense of personal loss.
  • Coping: A person living with chronic arthritis can change their perspective. Coping skills can be improved through mutual support with others living with arthritis, inclusion of your loved ones, patient education, and being a partner with your doctor regarding your health care.
  • Acceptance: At the point when you learn to accept your arthritis and not deny the disease, you become liberated and begin to concentrate on treatment options, eliminating stress, having a positive and hopeful attitude, prioritizing activities, and making good decisions.

The Bottom Line

A person suffering so much loss often feels depleted and robbed by their condition. Just as the death of a loved one is met with a period of mourning, the loss of your dreams and the loss of the person you once were must also be grieved. But grieving your loss should not be a permanent condition. Work on solving difficult issues so that you can accept and "live with" arthritis. Live wisely "with" the disease.


Facing Emotions, Living With a Chronic Illness, Elizabeth Kublar-Ross


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