Managing anxiety and other mental health concerns with PH

Juggling tasks, medications, doctor appointments, and more can get us down

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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Most people focus on the physical challenges of living with a rare disease like pulmonary hypertension (PH). However, conversations about mental and emotional health don’t get enough airtime, in my opinion.

If you’re reading this and thinking that mental health issues like anxiety and depression aren’t intertwined with rare and chronic diseases, think again.

In addition to physical symptoms, chronic illnesses affect our emotional well-being. The daily grind of juggling tasks, medications, doctor appointments, and more can feel like an insurmountable mountain. For those of us with PH, the stress is amplified by navigating a healthcare system that often lacks understanding or immediate treatments.

There’s also the emotional weight of appearing strong when you’re anything but. Society’s pressure to remain calm while under pressure forces many of us to conceal our pain and our struggles behind a smile. Few see the reality, which includes moments of breakdown, when tears are streaming down our face. Trying to hold everything together can seem unbearable.

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The intersection of anxiety and symptoms

Research has shown that people with chronic illnesses like PH are more prone to experiencing depression and anxiety. Anxiety has been a constant companion on my journey with PH, and it escalates with each new diagnosis. Working with my therapist, I’ve noticed how it physically manifests in my body. My neck stiffens and I get headaches (which I used to brush off as a side effect of medication), nausea, and a burning sensation in my body. If I don’t address the anxiety, chronic pain, particularly in my chest, intensifies.

It’s all a complex web that can be hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it. That’s why it’s important that we start discussing it more and use our voices to educate others. In time, that might help others share their mental challenges, too.

Understanding how anxiety affects us physically and mentally is essential. Admitting that it is real allows us to learn coping mechanisms and to seek support from others who understand.

Finding support

What makes managing anxiety in PH even more complex is the fact that our symptoms may overlap with other aspects of our disease. Shortness of breath or heart palpitations, for example, may be a result of either anxiety or our PH. This can lead to confusion and frustration as we try to figure out what’s happening.

Connecting with others who truly get what it’s like to live with PH can transform the way we manage our anxiety. Finding solace in support groups and online forums or simply chatting with friends can make a big difference. Despite the challenges, we see our strength in unity and the unwavering support of our loved ones.

Keep pushing forward. We’re in this together.


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.

Comments

Carol Volckmann avatar

Carol Volckmann

Jen, this post is so well done. You have covered it all while exposing your vulnerabilities it allows us to see ours - we are NOT alone! Thank you dear sweet friend.

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Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Carol, it means so much that you enjoyed this column. Knowing you feel less alone is why I share my experiences. Managing mental and emotional health needs to be discussed as much as out health. They go hand in hand.

Again, words can't express how much your time and comments means to me.Take care, my PHriend.

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Valerie avatar

Valerie

Jen, I subscribe to every word you say! Anxiety can really make our lives very difficult. Is there no discussion on this topic? I think many people could speak out!

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Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi Valerie, Anxiety can certainly impact our quality of life. managing our mental health along with PH is crucial.

In our PH News forums, we do have a section about Mental Health, I'll share it below. If you aren't a member of our forums, we would love to have you join us. I am one of the forum moderators.

Life challenges-Mental Health subforum

Thanks again for taking the time to read my column and offer your feedback. Take care and I hope to see you soon in the forums.

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