Adjustment to Medical Issues

Adjustment Disorders are listed in the diagnostic manual for mental health disorders, and generally address emotional responses to events.  They can be in response to trauma and can be identified by the development of depression and anxiety or other mental health issues.  Adjustment disorders generally don’t last long term, and if they do, the practitioner may change the diagnosis to a more appropriate diagnosis like post traumatic stress disorder.  Adjustment issues are common after significant events, like the death of a loved one, witnessing a trauma event, or being diagnosed with a medical condition.  Many people struggle after being diagnosed, and need help to manage the adjustment.

I work with many people around their adjustment to a new medical issue.  If you think about what might go through your mind if you are diagnosed with cancer, you might be overwhelmed and struggle to remember that you have a future, although different from your original plan.   When faced with a question of your prognosis or life, it tends to make you stop in your tracks.  Many people go through a similar process when making an adjustment as they do when they are grieving a loved one.  If they are diagnosed with a life threatening illness, they might bargain with God to change their future.  If they are diagnosed with a chronic illness, they will likely go through a process of depression and anxiety as they adjust to living with their illness.  If they develop issues like chronic pain, they may develop anger at the people around them or the people who can still do things they can no longer do.  The hope is that they will make it to acceptance, but some will need help.

No matter what kind of medical issues that are diagnosed, it will change your life.  It will change what you can and can’t do.  It will change your approach to the future.  It will change what you had planned, and may require other changes, such as a change in your diet, medications, or other things that were normal.  For many people, the idea of making changes is scary and overwhelming.  The important thing to remember is that you can adjust.  Life is not over, but you need can do things differently.

Growing old is a natural progression and it’s easy to adjust because it’s an easier process.  When your life changes in a moment, even if you had time to think about the change, it’s still possible to do things differently.  I can’t do the same things I did when I was younger.  When I was younger, I could stay up all night and still make it to work the next day.  These days, can’t do that any more, but I can still make things happen.  Many of my patients can’t work in the yard all day any more, but they can still do a couple hours and make things happen.  You can adjust to a new normal, just as you do as you get older.  It just happens in a different way.

No matter what you are faced with, whether it’s cancer, fibromyalgia, or MS, you can still be happy and have a full life.  There are adjustments to be made, but your life isn’t over.  There is help if you need assistance with making the changes.  Get support if you need it, but you can still be happy, for life.