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  • Jayne Green (B.Ed;M.Ed)

The Silent Struggle: Life-Threatening Illness and its Impact on Anxiety, Depression and PTSD


The Silent Struggle: Life Threatening
TERMINAL ILLNESS & PTSD

Life is unpredictable, and sometimes it throws us into situations that can change our lives forever. In fact many people with a terminal illness suffer from anxiety and depression, due to the PTSD they suffer while coming to terms with their mortality.


One such life-altering event is the onset of a life-threatening illness. Beyond the physical pain and challenges, the psychological toll of facing mortality can have long-lasting effects. In this blog post, we will explore the profound impact that life-threatening illnesses can have on mental health, specifically the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Understanding PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that develops in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is commonly associated with experiences such as war, natural disasters, or accidents. However, people often overlook the fact that many other life challenges are attributable to PTSD. Divorce, Grief, Coping with Teenagers who put themselves into dangerous and fragile life threatening situations.


Any real life challenge can cause PTSD, but in this BLOG we are only covering life-threatening illnesses that lead to the development of PTSD.

The Impact of Life-Threatening Illnesses: A life-threatening illness can bring about an overwhelming sense of vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear. The diagnosis itself can shatter one's sense of security, as they face the possibility of their own mortality. The rigorous treatment regimens, invasive procedures, and ongoing medical appointments further contribute to the distress. All these factors, combined with the emotional and physical pain, can have a lasting impact on an individual's mental well-being.

PTSD Symptoms in the Context of Illness: Individuals battling life-threatening illnesses often experience a range of symptoms that are consistent with PTSD. These symptoms may include:

  • Intrusive thoughts: Vivid and distressing memories of medical procedures, hospital stays, or near-death experiences may intrude upon their daily lives, causing significant distress.


  • Avoidance: Patients may actively avoid situations, people, or places that remind them of their illness, making it difficult to engage in activities they once enjoyed. This avoidance behavior may also extend to medical appointments, leading to a delay in seeking necessary healthcare.


  • Hyperarousal: A heightened state of anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping are common symptoms experienced by individuals with life-threatening illnesses. The constant anticipation of health complications can keep them in a constant state of alertness.


  • Emotional distress: Feelings of fear, guilt, sadness, and anger are often experienced by those with life-threatening illnesses. The emotional roller coaster they go through can take a toll on their mental health, leading to mood swings and a sense of hopelessness.


Treatment and Support: Recognizing the impact of life-threatening illnesses on mental health is crucial for healthcare providers, caregivers, and society as a whole. Timely intervention and support can make a significant difference in the well-being of patients.

  • Psychotherapy: Counselling and therapy can provide a safe space for patients to process their emotions and traumatic experiences. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are effective therapeutic approaches for treating PTSD.


  • Medication: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances associated with PTSD. It is important to work closely with healthcare professionals to find the right medication and dosage.


  • Support networks: Building a strong support system is crucial for patients battling life-threatening illnesses. Friends, family, support groups, and online communities can provide understanding, empathy, and encouragement.


  • Self-care: Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can help individuals cope with the challenges they face. Prioritizing physical and mental well-being is essential in the healing process.


Conclusion: Life-threatening illnesses can be an incredibly traumatic experience, leaving deep emotional scars that are often overlooked. Recognizing the potential for PTSD in these circumstances is vital in ensuring that patients receive the support and treatment they need. By raising awareness and fostering empathy, we can create a safe environment for people to seek support for PTSD, throughout an already terrifying journey of coming to terms with their fragile and uncertain mortality.

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