Are you looking for chronic illness support groups? Do you have a chronic illness? Do you know someone with a chronic illness? Are you looking for support and guidance for chronic illness? Are you a family member or caregiver to someone with chronic illness? Do you know someone who can benefit from joining a chronic illness support group? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this article is for you.
My name is Sean Galla, a facilitator for online support groups, including chronic illness support groups. People living with chronic illnesses like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, sclerosis may find the health system impersonal. They feel undervalued and misunderstood because of their condition. I help by overseeing support groups that offer guidance, support, and resources to people living with chronic conditions or families and caregivers of people living with chronic illnesses.
If you have been looking for information about chronic illness support groups, this article will tell you everything you need to know.
Table of Contents:
What Is a Chronic Illness Support Group?
Chronic illness support groups are self-help groups for people living with chronic illnesses. Immediately you or a loved one get a diagnosis, the next best thing after seeking medical intervention for the condition is to join a support group.
When faced with a chronic illness diagnosis, the news can take a toll on your emotions, which can affect your mental health on top of your physical health. Whether this is the first time getting a diagnosis or not, it is always important to have a support system. In a chronic illness support group, you can experience emotional healing through sharing your life experience and learning from others going through the same issues.
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Types of Chronic Illness Support Groups
Chronic illness support groups can be availed by community organizations, hospitals, support agencies, mental health care providers, schools for young adults, and online communities that meet on platforms like zoom.
Specific chronic illness support groups
Some chronic illness support groups are strictly open to people with a specific chronic disease or experiences with certain medical conditions, like a concussion support group that caters to brain injury survivors. These can be ideal for specific chronic physical and mental illnesses like cancer, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia (the invisible illness), and epilepsy, among other chronic conditions. These groups focus on offering guidance and referrals to health professionals for specialized care.
Peer to peer chronic illness support groups
Chronic illness support groups are self-help groups led by people who share the same medical diagnosis or individuals interested in offering group therapy to people living with chronic illness. These are facilitators with experience in leading support groups.
In peer-to-peer chronic illness support forums, group members learn through shared experiences on the best coping skills, self-help, and self-care methods, which play an important role in their overall wellness.
Professional chronic illness support groups
These are more formal support groups led by health professionals. These formal support groups offer members professional practical information on specific or general chronic illnesses. While they can be effective, most people living with chronic illnesses do not prefer because they lack empathy, present in a peer support group.
Caregivers and family members chronic illness support groups
These are groups open to caregivers and family members to people struggling with different chronic illnesses. They offer guidance and resources to help caregivers deliver better health care to a loved one. They also strive to keep a check on the mental health of family members and caregivers since caring for a person with chronic illness can cause stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression.
If you are not sure about the best chronic illness support group for your well-being, you can contact different chronic illness support organizations through their helpline to learn more about the kind of advocacy work they do and accessibility criteria.
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Benefits of Chronic Pain Support Groups
Every year, the number of people living with chronic illnesses skyrockets. What’s worse, most people living with chronic illness feel they cannot share with their loved ones for fear of being judged, misunderstood, or a burden.
Expressing your emotions to other people can have multiple benefits to your physical and mental health. If you feel that none of your family members and friends can understand, joining a chronic illness support group is the next best choice. When you join a chronic illness support group:
You feel less alone
Chronic illness support groups comprise people struggling with chronic illnesses, just like you. This gives you a sense of belonging and assurance that your illness is not unique to just you. Being in the company of people who understand makes you feel less of a victim and motivates you to manage the illness better even as you share personal stories.
You get to vent in a safe space
As it is often said, a problem half shared is a problem half solved. If you are living with a chronic illness, talking about it lessens the burden. Chronic illness support groups give you a safe space to share your challenges and issues without fear of being misunderstood or judged. When you share what is stressing you, you end up feeling much better, and sometimes you get ideas on how to cope better with your symptoms.
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You learn healthy coping mechanisms
People respond differently to having a chronic illness. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol abuse, others fall into depression, and others suffer from denial. A chronic illness support group is the best place to learn healthy coping mechanisms for the first time you are diagnosed. Adopting healthy ways of dealing with the news of a chronic illness can save you from self-destructive coping behavior like alcoholism and substance use.
Choosing a Chronic Illness Support Group
Not all chronic illness support groups are created equally, even those offered in the same organization. The best support group should empower the group members by providing reliable and quality information. This is the best way to offer help to members and make it easier for them to care for their health.
With the shared experiences and knowledge, members can have an easier time overcoming issues like stress, depression, and even trauma associated with living with a chronic illness.
The best groups should offer members enough room to talk about their issues without necessarily offering immediate solutions. This makes it easier for the members to vent their frustrations, which is important for progress.
Once the members have shared, the facilitator can give tips, skills, or connections to help the members overcome their shared issues.
When choosing the best chronic illness support group, there are some aspects you need to consider. By going through the following checklist, you are better placed to decide on the best group for your needs. The most important questions to ask include:
- Is the group open to new members?
- Does it cater to a specific chronic illness?
- What are the joining criteria?
- How and where does the group meet?
- How many people are in the group?
- Is the group a non-profit organization or affiliated with other programs/organizations?
- Does the group take confidentiality seriously?
- How are the meetings structured?
- What topics are discussed?
- Who oversees the meetings?
- Is it a secular or faith-based group?
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With these questions, you can purpose to attend a few chronic illness group meetings to find answers to your questions. After the sessions, you need to consider factors such as:
- Did the group make you feel included?
- Did you feel comfortable and safe enough to want to share?
- Does the group cater to my chronic illness support needs?
- Do they have the necessary skills and tools to teach you how to cope with your illness?
- Did you enjoy the meeting?
- Do you have any concerns about confidentiality in the group?
- Do you see yourself benefiting from being in the group?
- Do you think you can be of value to the group and the members?
With the right chronic illness support group, you should answer yes to at least 99% of these questions. With this checklist, you will have an easier time finding the most appropriate chronic illness support group for your needs.
Recommendations for the Best Chronic Illness Support Groups
Chronic Pain, Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Support Group
Chronic Pain, Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Support Group is a support group for people living with fibromyalgia, the invisible disease. This support group empowers members, caregivers, and family members by providing education, encouragement, and support to people living with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue.
Center for Chronic Illness
This chronic illness support platform offers a wide range of services to people living with chronic illness. Whether you have been diagnosed with a rare health challenge or a common diagnosis, you are sure to find a support group willing and ready to help. Center for Chronic Illness also has specific support groups for parenting chronic illness that support parents with kids living with chronic illnesses.
Men’s Group is an online men’s support group with many other smaller groups, including support groups for men living with chronic illnesses. Whether you got a recent diagnosis or have been living with the illness for a while, mensgroup has the resource and help you need to manage your symptoms and live a better, more fulfilling life.
Group therapy is an effective tool for managing chronic illnesses. Being part of a support group ensures you are always amongst people and that you have a free space to share and learn. As an online support group, you can be sure that there is an active session any time of the day. With Mensgroup, you have a reliable support network.
Learning that you have a chronic illness can leave you feeling dejected as if you are fighting a battle alone. If you find it hard to tell people you have a chronic illness, joining a support group offers you a safe space to heal emotionally and mentally as you come to terms with your condition.
Chronic illness support groups like mensgroup.com offer people living with chronic illnesses a safe space to be themselves. Here, you can share, listen, help and even vent without feeling shame or burdening.
*Sources: 1. Men, chronic illness and healthwork: accounts from male partners of women with endometriosis 2. Chronic Diseases and Men 3. The Ill Man: An Exploration of Chronic Illness Disclosure within Masculine Culture 4. Canadian Men’s Self-Management of Chronic Diseases: A Literature Analysis of Strategies for Dealing With Risks and Promoting Wellness 5. Women vs men: Which is more likely to develop a chronic disease?