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Addressing Feelings

Feelings such as worry, frustration, sadness, and grief are common and understandable responses to long-term illness. They are a reaction to the changes, limitations and uncertainty brought by illness.

Because emotions are so common in long-term illness, managing them deserves a place in your self-management plan. There are two additional reasons to include managing emotions in your plan. 

First, CFS and fibromyalgia tend to make emotional reactions stronger than they were before and harder to control. People often say they cry more frequently, get upset more easily or have more angry outbursts than before they were ill. 

Second, emotions can interact with symptoms in a vicious cycle. For example, being in constant pain can trigger worries about the future. Worry leads to muscle tension, which, in turn, increases pain. 

Like other aspects of CFS and FM, feelings can be managed. Some strategies mentioned on other pages of this site may be useful for managing the emotions triggered by CFS and FM.

For example, relaxation techniques can short-circuit the feedback effect in which symptoms and emotions reinforce one another. Also, changing your thinking using Cognitive Therapy may be helpful. This approach has been proven to be especially effective for treating anxiety and depression. 

Another general approach is to identify those situations (and sometimes specific people) that trigger strong emotions and plan a strategy of response ahead of time. Often, avoiding or minimizing stressful situations can reduce emotions.  

In addition to self-help measures, the management of emotions can include professional help. Emotions such as depression and anxiety can be caused or intensified by changes in brain chemistry and may be treated using prescription anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Also, counseling can be helpful. Talking with a therapist about the problems triggered by your illness does not imply that "it's all in your head." Rather, counseling offers help dealing with a difficult situation. 

The next several pages lay out our suggestions for managing depression, anxiety, worry, frustration, anger, and guilt.

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