Coping with A Chronic Condition: IBD

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • Many of you have written to the Health Central Network, reporting that you have just been diagnosed with IBD. Most likely, when your doctor delivered the news, he or she recommended an appropriate diet, lifestyle modifications, and possibly a prescription medication to help you better manage your condition. What your doctor may not have warned you about is the grief you may now be experiencing as a result of your diagnosis. In this two-part SharePost, I will provide you with some important information about the grief which may now be permeating your life as a result of your diagnosis.


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    Grief is what happens to our minds and bodies when we experience a loss. It has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions. In other words, grief may cause a decrease or increase in your appetite and sleep patterns. Grief may impact your ability to make decisions, and it may decrease your interest in going out with friends. Grief may even cause you to rethink your spiritual beliefs. After all, what kind of Higher Being would put any one through all this?


    That's the bad news.


    The good news is that grief is a completely normal part of life for all of us, and a completely normal reaction to a life-changing diagnosis of a chronic or serious illness. It makes perfect sense. The diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness often carries with it a tremendous sense of loss. For example, as a result of the diagnosis of IBD, you may be experiencing a loss of independence. It's no secret that IBD may make it more difficult to support yourself financially. You may also be feeling the loss of any sense of predictability in your life. Prior to the illness, you may have taken for granted that you could make plans and keep them most of the time. You may also be feeling the loss of being able to eat anything you wanted, whenever you wanted.


    And just like IBD, grief comes in waves (just think of it as flare-ups). It is an on-going, continually shifting process. This also makes sense. When you or a loved one is first diagnosed with a chronic illness, there can be no way of knowing what the full impact of the diagnosis may be. Each new season or stage of treatment may present new challenges and new realizations of the realities of the diagnosis. Without knowing all of the implications of the disorder, how can grief happen all at once?


    In Part II of this SharePost, I will explain the individual nature of grief and provide you with ideas for handling what can be a very uncomfortable emotion.

Published On: July 08, 2008