Feature Archive

Coping With Chronic Illness: What Goes Wrong

When it comes to self-managing chronic conditions, patients often make mistakes.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

The symptoms range from mild nuisances to crippling pain. Even if these less-than-pleasant reminders recede, the underlying conditions don't. Why? Because they're chronic, which means they cannot be cured. And they strike one in 10 Americans. Despite the incurable nature of chronic conditions, proper self-management can help ease associated symptoms and prevent complications. Why, then, do so many chronic conditions go uncontrolled?

"People tend to deny they have a chronic illness," says Kate Lorig, DrPH, RN, professor of medicine at Stanford University. And no wonder. Oftentimes, along with the diagnosis of a chronic condition, shocking in and of itself, comes the mandate to make several significant lifestyle changes -- immediately. Such news can overwhelm patients. Hence, this reaction: "Some people figure, 'I'm going to continue to do everything I did before,'" Lorig tells WebMD. Or they pick and choose elements of the regimen their doctors prescribe.

Common Mistakes in Self-Management

Experts on prevalent chronic conditions share with WebMD common self-management mistakes that patients make.

Asthma

Tolerating less-than-optimal control happens all too frequently among people with asthma. "They accept discomfort and activity limitation rather than pushing their doctors for better control," says Norman Edelman, MD, dean of Stony Brook University's School of Medicine.