Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness or disability can be difficult. Many of the challenges are socially imposed-discrimination at work and school, stereotypes about sick or disabled people, dismissive attitudes toward disability rights, and access barriers. Though society is designed for typically abled people, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses are actually in the majority. A 2017 RAND study found that 60% of Americans have a chronic illness. Forty-two percent have two or more chronic conditions. In 2010, 19% of Americans had a disability.

Therapy can help people deal with the social challenges of life with a disability or chronic illness. A compassionate therapist supports clients to identify their feelings and needs, talk to others about their experiences, advocate for themselves, and bridge disability-related relationship gaps. Therapy can also help families support members with a chronic disease or disability. Look for a therapist near you who is experienced in working with people with your condition.

People with chronic health conditions should also see a doctor for help diagnosing their condition and identifying potentially helpful treatments. Some people with chronic illnesses see several doctors before getting an accurate diagnosis.


Physical and mental health are linked. Chronic stress can intensify symptoms of various physical ailments. Stress can also make it more difficult to cope, or to adopt healthy lifestyle strategies that improve physical health symptoms. Additionally, some chronic illnesses and disabilities, such as depression and anxiety, primarily affect mental health.

Therapy can help with the many mental health aspects of life with disability. The right therapeutic approach depends on a person’s condition and treatment goals. For instance, a person with chronic pain might need motivation to exercise more and support to deal with stress. Some of the ways therapy can help with disability and chronic pain include:

Helping clients understand the mind-body connection.
Supporting clients to talk about their experiences with loved ones.
Navigating relationship issues related to disability.
Promoting an attitude of acceptance and introducing concepts such as neuro-diversity.
Helping clients identify and advocate for their needs.
Helping caregivers talk through the complex emotions and challenges caregiving can trigger.