How Physical Illness Affects Mental Health – by Marie Miguel

People who are ill need so much compassion. It isn’t just that they’re dealing with the pain and discomfort of difficult diseases or medical conditions. It’s also that these struggles affect their mental health. If you have any doubts that illness can destroy the mental wellbeing of even the strongest individuals, talk to any nurse. Here are just a few of the psychological effects of physical illness.


Anxiety is very common among sick people. After all, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Are you going to be sick for days? Or weeks? Is the medicine going to do any good? When will your doctor make their rounds? Will your tests reveal something ominous?

For some, all the worry leads to obsessive thoughts and extreme anxiety. For others, it might result in severe panic attacks. These problems can be dealt with, though. The key is to get good mental health care as soon as possible.

Relationship Issues

It’s bad enough that your illness affects you as an individual. That you can deal with one-on-one with a counselor. When it begins to affect your relationships, your support system suffers, and your life takes a turn for the worse.

There are several illness-related factors that can cause a rift in a relationship. Both people have to communicate things they’ve never dealt with before, like unfamiliar challenges, disabilities, or feelings. You’re both under unusual stress. You have different needs than you did when you were well. Meanwhile, your loved one is trying to be strong for you despite added responsibilities. Your social network is crumbling, and your finances are going downhill.

Through all this, the desire to work through the problems and save the relationship may be strong. If so, you can protect and even improve your relationship even when you’re ill. You just need the right help to guide you through the hard times together.


It’s easy to get depressed when your body hurts and isn’t functioning the way it usually does. Pain can make you feel bad emotionally as well as physically. Illness can also lead to depression for other reasons, too.

For one thing, your self-esteem might plummet each time you’re reminded that you can’t take care of your usual responsibilities. If your condition changes the way you look, that can damage your self-esteem, too. You feel out-of-sorts and not quite yourself.

Your illness might change your sleep patterns as well. These sleep issues can affect your mental health dramatically. Too much sleep can lead to depression, but so can insomnia or disrupted sleep.

Then, if you get bad news or treatments don’t work as quickly as you hoped, you may begin to lose hope that you’ll ever be back to your normal health. You may question even your most long-held beliefs about what it would mean if you didn’t. So, it isn’t surprising that physical illness can lead to depression.

If you have a loved one who is sick, they can use all your kindness and support. It will not only make them feel a little better in the present moment. It will also give them emotional strength to do what they need to do to take care of themselves. And, if you’re the one who’s ill, give yourself the compassion you deserve. Allow yourself to seek any mental health help you need to get you through this difficult time.

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


  1. Your article really hits home. I know that when I was sick with a life-threatening illness, I was worried sick and depressed due to the knowledge that I only had a 15% chance of surviving this in 5 years. I missed that bullet, thank G-d! Having a rare cancer was a very scary experience, and I already had a history of depression and anxiety, so it was very difficult to deal with. My family and friends, and even friends I never knew I had, were so supportive during that time. It was a major part of my healing to have that support and be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Thank you for this touching blog.


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