Does My Disease Cause All My Problems Or Do Other Things Come Into Play?

When you have a chronic illness, many other things can make problems worse or cause new problems. Kate Lorig, developer of the Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshops, writes about the symptom cycle in Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions. The disease, which is at the center, can cause a variety of other symptoms like depression, anxiety, fear, pain, fatigue, muscle tension, and poor breathing. Each of those symptoms can lead to others in the cycle. For example, constant pain may lead to anxiety and fear which in turn lead to muscle tension, which causes even more pain.

In order to manage your symptoms, it is helpful to realize that not all of the symptoms come directly from the disease. And any one of the symptoms can make the disease worse. As a person with a chronic illness, you are the only one who can identify what is going on with you and this symptom cycle. And to complicate matters even more, once you break the cycle, it will repair itself. It’s your job to be aware and to take the steps necessary to break the cycle each time. Poor nutrition is another problem. When you are sick, you are not as inclined to eat what is best for you.

Instead, you may reach for the food that comforts you. You probably don’t have a lot of energy to spend on food preparation, so prepared food that is loaded with blood pressure-raising sodium, refined carbohydrates, and artery-clogging fat may be the norm. Without good nutrition, your body has an even harder time coping with disease. Poor nutrition is likely to lead to obesity, making your body work harder to do even the simplest things. Lack of exercise leads to fatigue, more pain, muscle tension, and sleep problems, while also contributing to obesity.