Chronic Illness and Mental Health: A Reading List

I’ve been chronically ill since I developed an autoimmune disorder when I was 18 years old. What I didn’t expect was how much my chronic illness would impact my mental health.

Here are ten articles (one by me!) which go into the connection between chronic illness and mental health.

  1. Prednisone: The Steroid That Can Make You Feel Crazy by Shawna De La Rosa

“All medicines come with side effects, some good, some bad. The corticosteroid prednisone is no exception. Prednisone has life-saving anti-inflammatory properties. But this miraculous drug is also known to have sinister side effects.”

2. Here’s How I Manage the Depression That Comes with Chronic Illness by Kirsten Schultz

“My journey with depression began very early. I was 5 years old when I first fell ill with a host of chronic illnesses. The most serious of these, systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA), wasn’t accurately diagnosed until about eight months later. In the interim, I had been misdiagnosed with everything — food allergies, chemical sensitivities, medication reactions, and more.”

3. Aging In Rural America: The Link Between Chronic Disease and Mental Health by Lisa Gillespie

“Dennis Pond doesn’t tell his psychiatrist about his thoughts of suicide. But he has them. He often feels useless, in large part because his diabetes has caused terrible pain and numbness in his feet, and that affects his ability to drive, to help out around the house, to even go out in the yard.”

4. Selena Gomez’s Hospitalization Highlights a Problem With The Way We Treat Chronic Illness and Mental Illness by Julia Métraux (me!)

“On Wednesday, Selena Gomez, who has lupus, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after having a panic attack following a recent health setback. According to People, Gomez was hospitalized twice within the past few weeks for “a low blood cell count,” which can be a side effect of having a kidney transplant. While it’s important that she was able to get treatment for both her mental and physical health, her hospitalization shows how critical it is to address mental health in conjunction with chronic illness.”

5. My Chronic Illness Totally Changed How I Think About Mental Health by Larkin Clark

“The last thing I said before I lost consciousness was, ‘I’m dying.’

I had just turned 11 and was juggling dance classes with schoolwork, as I had for as long as I could remember. But the preceding few months, I’d been unusually tired and thirsty, losing weight with a low-key stomachache that wouldn’t go away. Because I was a kid nearing puberty, it seemed like a growth spurt. Even early visits to the doctor concluded as much. But my parents knew something wasn’t right — and it was getting worse.”

6. How chronic illness and mental health are inextricably linked by Rachel Dunn

“It’s hard to live in a body that is trying to attack and kill you every day. I was diagnosed with Lupus in 2005 and that meant a lot of changes to my usually active late teenage life. I could no longer go out with my friends every weekend, I couldn’t party and drink like regular 18-year-olds.”

7. How a chronic illness affects your mental health by Sara Lindberg

“Living with a chronic illness can be debilitating; both physically and mentally. The toll it can take on your body is bound to affect your ability to cope with psychological and emotional stress. Not only can a chronic illness make it impossible to do the things you enjoy, it can also rob you of a sense of hope for the future.”

8. Emotional Health and Dealing With A Chronic Illness by Alyssa Rosengard

“There are many acute emotions that surround mental health issues and chronic illness. A few that I and my fellow ‘zeebs’ seem to meet are shame and lack of acceptance: ashamed that our bodies are not functioning “normally” and pushing until exhaustion, trying to complete tasks.”

9. 28 Unexpected Emotional Symptoms of Chronic Illness by Paige Wyant

“When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, the doctor might give you an overview of the common symptoms associated with your illness, but often these are physical manifestations — pain, fatigue, swelling, even brain fog. Many of us are then surprised by all of the emotional side effects that accompany our illness. For me, the many years I spent being very ill but undiagnosed triggered the onset of depression and anxiety. I felt alone, scared, and judged by my friends at school who didn’t understand why I sat out during P.E. every day.”

10. Battling the Stress of Living with Chronic Illness by Robin Madell

“Being diagnosed with a long-term health condition can be frightening and disorienting. Once you move beyond the initial shock of your diagnosis, it’s helpful to learn how to cope with the daily stresses of living with your illness.”

Writer, student, and dog person. juliametraux@gmail.com

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