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The emotional side of dealing with your health.... Q&A with Dr Beesley, Chartered Clinical Psychologist

03 October 2018

The emotional side of dealing with your health...

When physical illness is diagnosed and treated, naturally the focus is on the physical symptoms and treatment. What can often be overlooked is the emotional side of dealing with changes in our health. There is increasing recognition of the emotional strain of dealing with health problems. Dr Helen Beesley, a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, has specialist expertise and experience in Clinical Health Psychology and holds frequent clinics at Spire Murrayfield Hospital. She explains more…

What is Clinical Heath Psychology?

It is an area of psychology, focusing on the emotional and psychological aspects of physical health. Clinical psychologists specialising in clinical health psychology, often help people when they are having difficult emotional reactions to dealing with physical illness or injury.

How might people feel?

It is normal to feel strong emotions. Emotions can include feeling upset, sad, anxious and angry.  Some people feel overwhelmed with a diagnosis or worried waiting for results. Sometimes dealing with treatment, pain or loss of ability to do daily activities that have previously been taken for granted feels difficult to cope with. Some physical health problems may be ‘invisible’ to others but have a significant effect on the person. If this is the case, even those close to them might find it difficult to understand how they feel. Sometimes relationships can be strained.

What can help?

Many people find a way through the emotional challenges they face with the help of family, friends and the doctors and nurses looking after them. Others may not have such support. However, even with these types of support, some people find that the emotions they are dealing with are difficult to manage.

Psychological therapy can involve supporting someone adjusting to a diagnosis, dealing with treatment, developing coping strategies and finding a way forward if life is different because of a physical health problem.

Jane’s Story

Jane was 56 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her husband and son were pleased when she had completed treatment and they were reassured to see that she was looking more like her old self. Life seemed to move on for them, but for Jane, it felt life would never be the same. She found that she worried a lot about signs of illness. She had lost interest in going out and seeing friends. She ‘put on a front’ that she was OK, but inside she felt sad and frightened about the future.

Therapy

Psychological therapy with Jane involved having the chance to talk openly about how she felt, and think about some of the things she might want to share with her family about how she felt. It involved identifying her values and her priorities - understanding what was important for her. It involved planning activities to look forward to and gradually increasing time out of the house and with other people, which she found she started to enjoy. Jane and her psychologist worked to understand her worries and find ways to manage them.   

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