Long Term Health Condition or Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Are you...

  • Managing a long term health condition like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cardiovascular disease?
  • Living with persistent medical symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain or stomach problems?
  • Feeling depressed and/or anxious about your physical symptoms?

Did you know that in addition to medicines and medical treatments, there are strategies you can learn to help manage physical symptoms like pain, fatigue, breathlessness or palpitations? These strategies are not going to make your physical symptoms disappear, but they can help you to cope better.

Living with a physical health condition can be hard. There is the distress of symptoms, demands of attending appointments and the adjustments you might have to make to your day-to-day life. Have you ever paused to consider how you might feel about all this? Do you ever find yourself feeling down or anxious?

We know physical health conditions can have a huge impact on our sense of wellbeing. Equally, research indicates how important our wellbeing is to our physical health. Take the examples of Nasma and Jim below.

Nasma's experience

Nasma: 75 years old, living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“COPD makes me so breathless. It used to terrify me. It would get so bad sometimes that I thought I just wasn’t able to get any air into my lungs and was about to die. I became so anxious I stopped going out. I even stopped spending time with my grandchildren. That started to make me feel really down. My GP referred me to see the primary care mental health worker at my surgery. Initially, I thought it was going to be a waste of time; after all, COPD is a physical problem. I was surprised. The worker showed me how what happens in my body is linked to how I feel, what I think and what I do. I was amazed how anxiety made my breathlessness worse. The relaxation exercises I was given are great. They help calm me down and make me feel more in control of my breathing. I was also supported to start doing more things again as I became less worried about becoming breathless. I still have COPD. I still get breathless, but I feel more like me again.”

Jack's experience

Jack: 35 years old, living with chronic pain.

“I have struggled with pain in my back and tender muscles all over my body since an accident 7 years ago. Medication helps a bit but I still struggled with the pain. To start with, I was angry with my GP for suggesting I see a psychologist. Was she suggesting the pain I experience is all made up? I ended up going out of desperation really. The psychologist immediately reassured me that she knew my pain was real. She gave me some strategies for managing my pain. The most helpful thing I learned was realising how my activity levels trapped me in a vicious cycle that made my pain worse. I felt really supported in finding the right amount of activity for me. I’m glad I went to see the psychologist at my surgery. My pain is still there unfortunately, but I cope so much better now.”

What can I do about it?

Nasma and Jack are just two examples of people who have been helped to cope with physical symptoms by the psychological therapies service at their GP practice. If you have a physical health condition, why not see if you could benefit too?

If you would like to know more about how Psychological Therapy can help you, please contact us. Alternatively, you may wish to speak to your GP about a referral to our service.