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 Rx: How to Live Well with Chronic Disease 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by . View all columns in series

Group education sessions for patients with arthritis led by other patients reduced pain levels by 20%. They also decreased visits to the doctor by 43%, saving an average of $400 per patient over four years.

Women with advanced metastatic breast cancer who received group psychotherapy and support in addition to standard medical care survived on average more than twice as long as those who received standard care only.

Recovery from Disease
Patients with coronary heart disease who are depressed are more likely to have heart attacks, undergo bypass surgery, and suffer other heart-related problems than heart disease patients who aren't depressed. In a study of patients who had a heart attack, depression related more closely to future heart problems than the severity of artery damage, high cholesterol levels, or cigarette smoking. In heart attack survivors, depression triples the risk of dying within six months.

[sidebar] Try This
Try keeping a journal of your experience with your chronic illness. Write down exactly how you feel about what has happened to you.

  • How did you feel about yourself before the diagnosis?
  • How do you feel about yourself now?
  • How do you feel others will react to you?
  • What is the meaning of the illness to you?
  • When you replay the diagnosis, what thoughts and feelings come to mind?
  • Have you known others with this condition and how does that experience shape your hopes and fears about the future?
You will come up with very useful information. You'll find areas you need to work on to build back your self-esteem and sense of control.

Watch Out: You Are Not to Blame

Chronic diseases are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.For example, stress alone does not cause most chronic illnesses. Mind matters, but mind cannot always triumph over matter. If you fail to recover, it is not because of lack of right mental attitude.

There are many things you can control that will help you cope with chronic illness. Remember, you are not responsible for causing the disease or failing to cure it, but you are responsible for taking action to manage your illness.

Excerpted with permission from the Quarterly Newsletter, Mind/Body Health Newsletter. For subscription information call 1-(800)-222-4745 or visit the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge website.

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 About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the......moreDavid Sobel MD
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