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Chronic Diseases and Their Adverse Influence on Physical and Mental Health

Chronic Diseases and Their Adverse Influence on Physical and Mental Health

chronic diseases
By Thrive Wellness Reno Primary Care Physician, Family Medicine Stephanie Wright, M.D.

Widespread and serious, chronic diseases upset both physical health and mental health. For those with chronic illnesses, however, comprehensive clinical support can address the mind-body relationship and nurture entire well-being. 


Chronic diseases are persisting conditions that require continuous medical care and interfere with meaningful daily activities. Almost half of the American population suffers from at least one chronic illness. 

Examples of chronic diseases include: 

  • Autoimmune diseases: Occur when the immune system malfunctions and begins to attack native body tissues and cells. Types of autoimmune diseases include lupus, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Diabetes: A disease that involves the body’s failure to produce sufficient insulin or use insulin effectively, inhibiting the cells’ ability to use glucose as fuel.
  • Cancer: A disease that occurs when certain body cells grow uncontrollably and spread.
  • Fibromyalgia: A condition that results in widespread pain throughout the body.
  • Heart disease: Refers to different heart problems closely related to nutrition that usually involve the buildup of plaque in the arteries, potentially causing heart attacks or strokes.
  • Hypertension: Also known as high blood pressure, the condition can be damaging to vital organs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Characterized by inflammation in the joints, causing joint pain and stiffness.

Generally manageable but frequently incurable, chronic illnesses can have life-altering consequences. Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.


Due to the physical and mental health ramifications, chronic illnesses often decrease individuals’ quality of life. Depending on the chronic disease, individuals can have physical symptoms such as:

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease and the illness’ coinciding symptoms can harm a person’s mental health and contribute to feelings of:


Ways individuals can support a loved one with a chronic illness include:

  • Ask how you can be helpful to your loved one: The disease has likely changed your loved one’s life in many ways, and they may need help as they cope with added difficulties. 
  • Refrain from being dismissive: Such as by avoiding statements like, “It could be worse,” or “You don’t look sick.”  
  • Show compassion and empathy for your loved one: Express interest in their diagnosis and communicate your understanding if they’re feeling disparate from their typical self. Just knowing you care can help them feel less isolated in their illness. 


In addition to undergoing medical care, those with mental health struggles related to chronic disease may consider attending therapy to process their experiences and emotions, strengthen their resilience, and develop healthy coping skills. They may also benefit from prescription medication to support therapeutic care which can be managed by their primary care provider or a psychiatrist. Additionally, occupational therapists can help those with chronic diseases adapt to health limitations and carry out daily tasks.

Related: Nine Tips For Finding a Mental or Behavioral Health Professional That’s a Fit


With primary care providers, mental health care professionals, and occupational therapists, Thrive Wellness approaches chronic illness treatment from every angle. Emphasizing the mind-body connection, our interdisciplinary team of specialists helps individuals with chronic diseases comprehensively manage and promote their overall well-being. Reach out to learn more about our health services.

About the Author
Thrive Wellness Reno Primary Care Physician, Family Medicine Stephanie Wright, M.D.

Dr. Stephanie Wright completed medical school and family medicine residency training at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, serving as chief resident during her last year of training. Subsequently, she taught resident physicians and medical students as a faculty member in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, and continues to serve as the medical director for the Physician Assistant Studies Program. Dr. Wright’s experience spans medical education as well as outpatient and inpatient clinical medicine with particular interests in pediatric and adolescent care, diabetes management, dermatology, and mental health. 

As a member of Thrive Wellness Reno’s primary care team, she is excited to utilize and broaden her skills alongside a team of compassionate clinicians and support staff. Dr. Wright believes primary care is an integral component of an all-encompassing, team-based approach to promoting physical, psychological, and social well-being. She is passionate about providing care for individuals and their families and takes pride in serving people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Dr. Wright was born in Columbus, Ohio, where she completed her elementary through undergraduate education. She graduated with a degree in biology from the Ohio State University. While growing up, she spent her summers visiting family in Reno and moved to Nevada to attend medical school in 2005. Dr. Wright enjoys spending time with her husband and sons, exploring the outdoors, watching Ohio State Buckeyes football, traveling, and reading.