What Is Chronic Illness? A Further Look
Chronic illness is something that is of huge relevance in the 21st century, as it has become extremely common and widespread around the world.
Here we will explore what is meant by the term chronic illness, some of the most common types of chronic illnesses and symptoms, as well as the confusions and complexities that often surround chronic illness.
What is Chronic Illness?
Broadly speaking, chronic illness is essentially any type of illness that lasts for a prolonged period of time, usually months to years. The symptoms of the illness/condition are chronic vs. acute, and persist over time.
Many common forms of chronic illness involve an imbalance in the functioning of many interconnected bodily systems, so the presentation of the illness is persistent until a root cause is identified and treated.
Natural healing modalities are often so effective at treating chronic illness because the focus and goal within this form of healthcare is to first identify the core underlying/root cause of the illness and subsequently treat that cause. This then alleviates the symptoms, which are an extension of the core underlying cause.
Until the root cause is identified, the symptoms will often persist over very long periods of time. Only treating or managing symptoms will not result in healing because the true cause of the illness is being left out of the equation.
A few examples of common chronic illnesses that are also root causes are:
- Biotoxin Illness (from mold exposure, Lyme, etc)
- Gut imbalance/infection such as fungal infection, parasitic infection, and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (explained further here)
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Thyroid imbalance
- Limbic system impairment
- Infection: fungal, bacterial, parasitic etc
- Mineral imbalance (such as Copper Toxicity)
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Abnormal gene expression of many kinds
The following are also forms of chronic illness, although these types of conditions usually present as an extension of a core underlying cause, as opposed to being the root cause themselves:
- Autoimmune conditions such as lupus and hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Heart conditions
- Lung conditions
- Neurodegenerative conditions
- And many more
Common symptoms that can be part of chronic illness include:
- Chronic fatigue – often severe and debilitating
- Malaise and a general feeling of being unwell
- Chronic pain of all kinds
- Digestive upset
- Bloating and abdominal distension
- Food sensitivities
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint swelling, pain, tightness
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Hormone imbalance symptoms such as hypo/hyperthyroid, sex hormone imbalance, adrenal hormone imbalance, etc – hair loss, brain fog, weight fluctuations, body temperature fluctuations, extreme abdominal pain, menstrual irregularities, water retention, etc
- Respiratory symptoms – shortness of breath, chest pain, chest tightness, etc
- Rapid heart rate and heart palpitations
- High and low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness, spasms, soreness
- Body aches
- Blurry vision
- Night sweats
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Sensitivity to multiple chemicals, pollutants, etc
- Hand and body tremors
- Skin symptoms such as rashes, dry skin, etc
- Mobility impairment such as trouble standing, walking, etc
- And many many more
Invisible Chronic Illness
While some forms of chronic illness can certainly cause a notable change in one’s outward physical appearance, many forms of chronic illness do not cause the sufferer to appear physically ill.
Someone may physically appear to be “perfectly fine” and in fact be experiencing 30+ symptoms on a chronic, daily basis and have been for the past several years.
Looks can certainly be deceiving when it comes to chronic illness and someone’s outward appearance is most definitely not a reliable indicator as to whether or not they currently have a chronic illness.
“But you don’t look sick” is something that many people with various forms of chronic illnesses have heard and subsequently felt compelled to explain at some point in their journey.
Due to this, one of the biggest struggles of many chronic illness sufferers can be trying to get those around them to actually believe that they are in fact ill.
This is often due to a lack of awareness and understanding regarding many truths of chronic illness within our societies at present.
The fact of the matter is, illness presents itself in an endless amount of ways, and the way someone looks on the outside does not often reflect their current state of their health.
Further Confusion That Often Surrounds Chronic Illness And Chronic Illness Sufferers
There is a lot of confusion that surrounds many different facets of chronic illness and chronic illness sufferers. This is an important topic to explore.
When it comes to sickness or being ill, it is often thought of as something that happens and then goes away. That someone gets sick and then they get better in a relatively short period of time. You stay home from work or school for a few days to nurse your illness and are back to feeling “100%” again pretty soon, and subsequently resume your normal daily activities.
This isn’t how it works with chronic illness. Chronic illnesses develop, and stick around. The symptoms appear, and usually worsen as time goes by. The illness could have also been present since birth.
The sufferer’s daily life is greatly affected, because they don’t “bounce back” from their illness after a week or 2, they are dealing with a slew of often severe symptoms daily for long periods of time.
There is also a spectrum with chronic illness regarding the severity and scope of symptoms present. Someone can have a mild form of a chronic illness and be able function fairly well on a day to day basis.
Then someone can have a very severe form of a chronic illness and be homebound, bedridden, or similar on a daily basis for years. Then someone could be somewhere in the middle.
There can also be an ever-changing variance in symptom presentation from day to day. One day someone may have a moderate amount of energy and relatively mild set of symptoms and the next day they could have no energy and severe symptoms.
One day they may feel capable of doing certain activities such as grocery shopping, going to work, doing chores around their home, spending time with family and friends, etc and the next day only be able to make it to the bathroom and go straight back to bed.
Chronic illness can be very unpredictable and have a tremendous impact on the life of the sufferer in an endless amount of ways: socially, emotionally, mentally, financially, you name it.
This unpredictability in no way discounts the legitimacy of the medical condition, it is simply a characteristic of chronic illness.
Furthermore, there can also be a lot of variance and anomaly when it comes to chronic illness. For example, the same condition can manifest differently in 2 different people for a variety of subjective reasons. These 2 people could have the same condition, but have marked differences in the symptoms that they experience.
All of the above often leads to a great degree of confusion for people who aren’t experiencing this circumstance themselves or are very close to someone who is. These factors often make it difficult for people to accept, understand, and take chronic illness as seriously as it deserves to be treated.
It is impossible to place the topic of chronic illness into a neat box and call it a day…so there is often a considerable lack of understanding within our societies.
Chronic illness sufferers can be labeled as “hypochondriacs,” “attention seekers,” or similar such labels. These labels are of course highly inaccurate, however they reflect the misunderstanding that so often surrounds chronic illness and the people experiencing them.
Due to all of the aforementioned social confusions surrounding chronic illness, sufferers often experience a great deal of frustration and feelings of isolation. They can feel misunderstood, misjudged, and falsely accused.
While chronic illness is indeed extremely common, there still remains a great degree of confusion regarding the variance and complexities that can come with it.
With an increase in educational resources and a broadened scope of awareness obtained throughout our world, we can certainly reach a place where a more considerable degree of understanding is present in regard to the truths surrounding chronic illness.
If you are currently struggling with a chronic illness and have experienced frustrations with any of the above, one of my biggest pieces of advice to you would be to focus on your understanding of the illness you are dealing with, and disregard any misinterpretations from others whom don’t understand.
Focus on your own understanding and your healing. Be your biggest cheerleader. You are incredible and you are capable of absolutely amazing things. Your future is so bright my friend.
I’m sending you strength, peace, and healing…you’ve got this 💜.