Coping with a New Medical Diagnosis

Receiving a medical diagnosis can stir up all sorts of emotions, including sadness, fear, and hopelessness. Whether the diagnosis came out of the blue or after a significant period of symptoms and diagnostics, attaching a label to the experience – particularly one that has chronic implications – can be traumatic and, typically, life-changing.

To help you cope with a new medical diagnosis, we’ve compiled a list of tips that can reduce some of the distress around the diagnosis and help you to feel more supported and empowered.

  1. Seek out information – BUT, look to professionals as sources. This is not the time to consult with Dr. Google, as the information you find online might be incorrect, might not apply to you, and won’t be interpreted through a professional lens.  Ask your doctor(s) all the questions you can think of regarding your condition, your prognosis, and your treatment plan. It’s helpful to make a list of questions you have before each appointment and to take notes during the appointment. It can also be helpful to bring along a trusted friend or relative to your appointments. Sometimes, when we hear emotional information, our ability to think clearly and encode memories gets fuzzy.

2. Take care of yourself. While self-care is an important task for everyone, it’s crucual for those who have a medical diagnosis. Get on a sleep schedule and eat regular meals. Make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed. If you have medical clearance to exercise, engaging in physical activity can help lower stress and improve your mental state. Listening to some of your favorite music, cuddling up with a good book, spending time with your pet, or taking a day trip to a beach or lake can help round out your self-care practices.

3. Don’t forget who you are and what makes you tick. A medical diagnosis has the potential to swoop in and takes over your daily life. Attending medical appointments, changing your routine, and worrying about symptoms and outcomes can become all-encompassing. But, if you continue to focus on your relationships, your hobbies, and other features that make you you, the illness can be just one of many parts of your identity.

4. Seek out social support. Reach out to family and friends on a regular basis. Ask for help. Perhaps you can find a support group or community of those who have a similar diagnosis. Remember, it takes a village.

5. Get professional help. A medical illness can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being. Those who struggle with medical conditions commonly suffer from anxiety,  depression, and symptoms of trauma. It’s as important to treat the mental symptoms as it is the physical ones.

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