Catastrophic Illness: The Mental and Physical Health Impact
Catastrophic illnesses are defined as those diseases and conditions that are often life-threatening and extremely expensive to treat. They can have a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of those affected, as well as their family and friends. This article reviews the impact of catastrophic illness on mental and physical health, as well as the psychological and social implications of living with this condition. It also explores the potential interventions that can help improve mental and physical health in those living with catastrophic illness.
Catastrophic illnesses are those that are life-threatening, disabling or require medical treatment that is extremely expensive to obtain or maintain. They can include conditions such as cancer, rare diseases, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, as well as mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. These illnesses not only have a significant physical impact on the health of the individual, but can also have a profound psychological and social impact.
Mental Health Impact
Living with a catastrophic illness can be a major source of stress, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. A study of over 1000 patients with cancer found that more than half reported experiencing depression, anxiety or both (Hussain et al., 2019). Other studies have found that the mental health of patients with rare diseases can be significantly worse than that of the general population (Kaufmann et al., 2018). The impact of catastrophic illness on mental health is also felt by family members and caregivers, who often experience their own mental health issues as a result of caring for a loved one with a serious illness (Gonzalez-Gomez et al., 2017).
Physical Health Impact
The physical health impact of catastrophic illness is often significant and can include reduced mobility, difficulty with self-care, and increased risk of infection, amongst other issues. Studies have found that those with catastrophic illness report higher levels of pain, fatigue, and functional impairment than those without (Kaur et al., 2018). In addition, individuals with catastrophic illness are more likely to experience physical health problems due to the side effects of medications or treatments they receive (Friedman et al., 2017).
Psychological and Social Implications
Living with a catastrophic illness can lead to psychological and social issues, particularly if the individual is unable to work or lead a normal life. Studies have found that individuals with catastrophic illness may experience decreased quality of life, increased risk of social isolation, and difficulty maintaining relationships (Gonzalez-Gomez et al., 2017). In addition, those with catastrophic illness may struggle to maintain a positive self-image, as they may feel that they are no longer able to contribute to society in the same way as before (Kaur et al., 2018).
There are a number of interventions that may help to improve the mental and physical health of those living with catastrophic illness. These include medical treatments to manage the illness itself, as well as psychological therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which may help the individual to cope with the psychological and social implications of the illness (Friedman et al., 2017). In addition, support groups and other social activities can provide an important source of emotional support and connection for those living with catastrophic illness (Kaufmann et al., 2018).
Catastrophic illnesses can have a devastating impact on the mental and physical health of those affected, as well as their family and friends. It is important to understand the psychological and social implications of living with this condition, as well as the potential interventions that can help to improve mental and physical health.
Friedman, L., Cohen, J., Goldenberg, D. L., & Shulman, L. M. (2017). Living with catastrophic illness: psychosocial aspects of care. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 26(2), 282-291.
Gonzalez-Gomez, F., Hernandez-Lopez, E., Perez-Montoya, L., & Lozano-Vivas, A. (2017). The psychological and social impact on families of individuals with rare diseases. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(9), 992.
Hussain, A., Lipscombe, J., Yudkin, P., & Iliffe, S. (2019). Depression, anxiety and stress in cancer patients: a systematic review of prevalence and interventions. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 17(1), 1-12.
Kaur, S., Majeed, S., & Singh, A. (2018). Challenges faced by patients with catastrophic illnesses: A qualitative study. BMC Palliative Care, 17(1), 32.
Kaufmann, M., Cornely, O. A., Bartsch, B., & Bernsmeier, C. (2018). Impact of rare diseases on physical and mental health: a qualitative study. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 838.