Serious Illness Linked to Poor Mental Health

December 19, 2016| Health and Wellbeing /

We barely notice our bodies in good health. We walk around, eat, sleep, work, taking all of it for granted. Being diagnosed with a serious illness changes everything and this often has an affect on mental health.

A serious physical diagnosis is life altering.

Many struggle to come to terms with the hard road ahead of them and feel frightened about what the future holds. They lose control over things that as adults we regard as rights, like our independence, our ability to dictate our own routines, even choose the food we eat. Basic functions like going to the toilet, walking, eating and breathing can suddenly be a challenge, and people often struggle to hold onto their sense of identity when their everyday routine becomes centered around ill health.

“Going from being a healthy adult to a patient requires a massive psychological transition,” says psychiatrist Dr Justin Dwyer. “This makes people vulnerable to mental health problems.”

The relationship between physical and mental health.

“One of the big issues in modern medicine is the idea that the mind and the body are separate,” says Dr Dwyer. “What we find is that the whole experience of the person, both physical and mental, is impossible to separate.

Psychological distress can be expressed through the body in a variety of astonishing ways, such as loss of vision or changes in gut function. Equally, physical illness can have a profound effect on mood and thought and we find mental illness is much more common among the medically ill.”

Seriously ill patients are particularly prone to some of the following conditions

Depression:
Alongside painfully lowered mood, other symptoms include loss of the capacity for joy, withdrawal from social activities and feeling that one has just become a burden on others. Depression impacts upon recovery from physical illness in complex ways. As an example, depression is known to increase mortality after a heart attack and can reduce participation in important interventions, such as physiotherapy. Depression is very treatable in the medically ill population.

Delirium:
Delirium is common in particular patient groups such as the seriously medically ill. Delirious patients experience a host of unsettling psychological disturbances such as fluctuating disorientation, hallucinations and feelings of persecution. Often, these experiences are not well understood by family who can be quite traumatised as they watch their loved one descend in this state. Delirium should always be identified and treated, as it can have long-term impacts upon recovery.

Reducing the risk

Fostering open communications is the best way to help someone adjust to illness and reduce anxiety and stress.
— Dr Justin Dwyer, Psychiatrist, Epworth HealthCare

“When you sit down and talk with these people to understand their experience, you begin to see a completely natural response to their situation. Universally, the things that drive their behaviours on the ward are the things that drive us all, such as the wish to keep our identity intact, the wish to avoid suffering and pain, and the hope to remain connected with loved ones.”

“Patients need to feel they’re being looked after for who they are, rather than the condition they have. It’s an important distinction.”

Families and friends can help by talking openly with each other and with staff without the fear of burdening or upsetting one another. Being able to share experiences as everyone moves through diagnosis, treatment and whatever follows, makes an enormous difference.

If more help is needed, see your GP and discuss your options. A referral to a mental health professional may be recommended.



Epworth

Join the conversation on The Village



June 17, 2019| Health and Wellbeing/

When Period Pain Strikes Again

We caught up with Dr Kent Kuswanto, Epworth obstetrician and gynaecologist to talk all things periods.

June 13, 2019| Our Community/

Team Recipes - Super Moist Gluten Free Banana Bread

Recipes brought to you by the Epworth team. You can’t stop at one slice and you’ll never know it’s gluten free! Slice & serve warm.

June 11, 2019| Our Community/

First Birthday for Epworth Cousins

It’s been a year since we’ve been following sisters Alex and Jane’s bubs - Charlotte and Lola. It’s been a year since they both gave birth to their daughters, one at Epworth Freemasons and the other at Epworth Geelong. Let’s find out how life has changed since then.

June 4, 2019| Health and Wellbeing/

Ovarian Cysts

An ovarian cyst is a fluid filled sac or pouch which forms on the ovary. Ovarian cysts, in most cases are harmless and resolve on their own. If the cyst is cancerous, it requires medical intervention. Ovarian cysts are common in women of childbearing age.

May 21, 2019| Health and Wellbeing/

Catering for Someone with a Food Allergy

With 1 in 10 infants now developing a food allergy, being conscious of what you are buying and how you prepare food is more important than ever.