THE TOLL OF LIVING WITH A FUNCTIONAL MEDICAL PROBLEM
Living with a functional medical problem affects your emotional and social life despite your best effort for it not to. Here are seven things common to people with functional medical problems:
- Having to deal with symptoms like acute pain and unpleasant, uncomfortable, or embarrassing symptoms is unpleasant at best and debilitating at worst.
- If you don’t openly or easily talk about your functional medical problems, others may have no idea what you’re going through. You may not be feeling connected to and supported by your friends and family. You may not be giving yourself the space or permission you need to express what you’re going through and to receive support.
- Functioning in everyday life with such symptoms requires some degree of behavioral modification—changing the way you do things. Making even one of these changes based on an inner sense of “I can’t” instead of “I can” can give people a sense of being defeated. The more one makes these kinds of decisions, the more one feels compromised by the functional medical problem and feels a sense of loss and thus grief.
- The symptoms and all of the behavioral modifications one makes on a regular basis inevitably lead to psychological changes. Shifts in mood, the intensification of emotions, the emergence or heightening of anxiety, a sense of feeling more fragile, vulnerable, sensitive, and reactive are all possible and likely. Feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, grief, loneliness, hopeless, and despair can surface and persist.
- Living with a functional medical problem can easily lead one to be frustrated by, dislike, or hate the illness. The more one experiences loss—of time, social events/activities, control of one’s body and life—the more psychological negativity is directed toward the part of the body generating the symptoms.
- Functional medical problems are typically reactive to stress, making it challenging to work and manage responsibilities. On a good day you might have symptoms, and on a bad day you have really bad symptoms, and there may be few, if any days, on which you experience relief from symptoms.
- People with functional medical problems have to live with their bodies malfunctioning without any idea why their bodies are malfunctioning. Our minds are naturally oriented to making sense of things that we don’t understand. It is difficult to accept the reality of not knowing that accompanies a functional medical problem. Not having clarity in response to the question “why is this happening” naturally leads our minds to conclude that we cannot stop the problem, and this can easily lead to feelings of fear, frustration, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, and powerlessness, contributing to the onset or exacerbation of anxiety and depression.