Therapy for Physical Health Problems in Essex

Around 26 million people in England live with at least one long-term physical health problem, such as a heart condition, lung condition or diabetes. Persistent physical symptoms, sometimes known as medically unexplained symptoms, are also very common and can include fatigue, back pain or headaches.

Living with a physical health problem is not just physically debilitating – it can also strain your relationships, work, and social life. As a result, more than 4 million of those affected by a physical health problem experience a notable negative impact on their emotional wellbeing.

If you’re no longer able to live the life you want because of a physical health problem, and are finding it difficult to adapt, Therapy For You can help. Below, we explain how our mental health treatments in Essex, including our cognitive behavioural therapy courses, can benefit your mental and emotional wellbeing in these challenging circumstances.

Why not get started on the right path now with one of our online NHS CBT courses?

Omni Online CBT

Our Omni Online CBT courses are created so you can manage your own mental health and wellbeing when and where it suits you. Gain instant access to immediate treatment in the form of video-driven, bite-size courses, all developed and delivered by experienced NHS clinicians. With each course dedicated to a specific mental health problem, get help mastering techniques to improve your wellbeing, and start one of our CBT-based courses now.

Delivered by Omnitherapy
Online CBT therapy service information
1-1 Therapy

Speak about what’s troubling you face-to-face with a qualified, supportive therapist – in the comfort and security of a private, confidential setting. Here you can openly discuss your feelings, experiences and symptoms, working one-on-one with your therapist to identify beneficial techniques and skills tailored to your specific circumstances.

One to one counselling therapy service information
Group Therapy

Explore your emotions and develop lifelong techniques, surrounded by people who share the same challenges as you. Our safe, confidential group therapy sessions are led by qualified mental health professionals that get you talking about your thoughts and feelings with peers who understand your situation. Together, take significant steps to feeling better.

Essex group therapy sessions for mental health
Video Therapy

If you cannot attend regular therapy in person, we can bring a qualified therapist to you through our dedicated video calls. Speaking with your therapist on camera at a time and place that suits you, you can openly discuss any issues that are causing you distress or making you feel uncomfortable. You’ll learn new techniques to help you overcome your problems and start you on your path to feeling better.

Remote video call mental health support information
Phone Therapy

If you have a busy family life, mobility issues or other barriers to getting out and about, we can make sure you still have access to the support you need through phone therapy. We arrange calls between you and a qualified therapist throughout the day, meaning you can always access mental health guidance and support at a time and place that’s convenient for you.

Over the phone therapy service information
ieso Typed Therapy

Mental health support that’s there when you need it. When you can’t find a voice to express how you feel, typed therapy by ieso enables you to text your fully qualified therapist at any place and time. Based on proven CBT techniques, you can discuss your concerns in a safe, private and relaxed way, maintaining a record of conversations you can always revisit to support your recovery.

Delivered by ieso
ieso typed therapy information and referrals

Who can access physical health problems support in Essex?

Therapy For You’s free mental health services are accessible in our North East and South East Essex catchment areas. If you are registered with a GP in the Colchester, Tendring, Southend, Castle Point and Rochford regions, we are ready to help you.

North East Essex mental health services map of areas covered including Colchester, Harwich, Mersea and Clacton

Mental health services in North East Essex

Here are the areas and postcodes covered by our mental health services, available for anyone aged 16 or over.

  • Clacton-on-Sea
  • Colchester
  • Frinton-on-Sea
  • Harwich
  • Manningtree
  • Tendring
  • Walton-on-the-Naze
  • West Mersea

How do I know if my physical health problem is impacting my mood?

After being diagnosed with a physical health problem, it is natural to feel upset, frustrated or anxious in the short-term, as you come to terms with the changes your condition has on your lifestyle.

However, if these feelings linger for more than a few weeks, impact your ability to live day-to-day or are beginning to get in between you and your relationships, it may be a sign that your long-term condition is affecting your mood and your life.

You may be struggling to face new limitations, finding it hard to cope with the rigours of your ongoing treatment, or missing out on favourite pastimes, such as hiking or gardening. If these feelings persist for weeks or months, it is a strong indication your mood is suffering – and it’s time to seek help.

Below we cover three common emotional difficulties often associated with physical health problems.

Depression and physical health problems

Around the world, as many as 300 million people are affected by depression. Sometimes, these feelings of low mood or sadness will pass after a few days or weeks. In other more serious scenarios, these feelings can become a staple of day-to-day life, and make an already challenging time even harder.

Although depression is rarely visible, it affects everyone differently. For some, it can make concentrating at work harder. For others, it can worsen their physical condition and bring about new symptoms, such as aches or pains.

Common signs of depression can include, but are not limited to:

  • Constant feelings of emptiness, sadness or hopelessness
  • Heightened irritability and restlessness
  • A lack of interest in once-enjoyable activities
  • Decreased energy
  • A lack of focus or ability to make decisions
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble sleeping or waking
  • Changes in your appetite and weight
  • Thoughts of suicide

Depression is common among those living with a wide range of physical health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. But you may not recognise this if you believe this is a symptom of your condition, or you are blaming yourself for being lazy or feeble.

If you think you are living with depression, it is important to ask for help. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness, or a distraction from treating your physical condition. The earlier you seek help, the easier it is to prevent these feelings from further impacting your physical health problem and your overall wellbeing.

Anxiety and physical health problems

From job interviews to competitive sports, anxiety is a natural, healthy response to stressful times in our lives. However, when these feelings become a constant presence everyday, they can make living with a physical health problem even more difficult.

Much like depression, anxiety often affects people in different ways. For some, these feelings can manifest themselves as headaches or pains, and make it harder for people to focus on anything but their long-term condition. Others might find it difficult to manage their symptoms, preventing them from enjoying their favourite hobbies.

Common symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Persistent worrying or fear
  • Greater irritability or restlessness
  • A lack of concentration or focus
  • Muscle tension, fatigue and an upset stomach
  • The adoption of avoidance behaviours

Your anxiety may be driven by uncertainty surrounding your condition or the future, feelings that you are letting friends or loved ones down due to your limitations, or the idea that you have become a burden on others. There is no “one-size-fits-all” cause or symptom for anxiety – but it could be having a significant negative impact on your life.

If feelings of anxiety are beginning to overwhelm you, seeking help can help you improve your quality of life and give you the tools to better manage your physical health problem.

Stress and physical health problems

Stress is something practically all of us will experience at some point in our lives. However, it can start to become an issue when these feelings become unrelenting and difficult to manage.

Perhaps you have a new medication to administer on a strict schedule. Or, maybe you need to make significant changes to your lifestyle as a result of your physical health problem. However stress has emerged, it can exacerbate your symptoms, weaken the immune system and affect how you cope with your condition in the long term.

You may be living with stress if you:

  • Feel irritable or aggressive
  • Are experiencing a newfound feeling of fear
  • Worry constantly
  • Feel restless or impatient
  • Are beginning to develop headaches or feel nauseous
  • Frequently fall ill with cold or flu-like infections
  • Procrastinate and avoid responsibilities

Learning ways to effectively manage your stress will allow you to focus on the positives of your condition, and prevent your long-term physical health problem from negatively impacting your quality of life.

What is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

Cognitive behavioural therapy, commonly known as CBT, introduces you to tools and techniques that help you tackle emotional difficulties commonly associated with long-term physical health conditions, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression.

CBT for physical health and mental health assessment questions - infographic image

CBT is a particularly effective treatment for ongoing physical health problems. It helps you develop coping strategies and problem-solving skills that you can use to manage your mood throughout your life, even after treatment has ended.

By making small, meaningful changes, CBT will help you identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours, taking steps toward a more positive, fulfilling life.

In the following sections, we will discuss how cognitive behavioural therapy can support those living with a range of physical health issues.

How effective is CBT for arthritis?

Arthritis is a physical health problem that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and difficulty with mobility. There are many different types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but there is sadly no cure.

Living with arthritis can be challenging both physically and mentally. It affects an individual's range of movement, and in severe cases, hampers their ability to work, socialise, and perform their favourite hobbies.

Having to make adjustments to your lifestyle as a result can be devastating – especially when it’s out of your control. To help you manage these challenges as well as any feelings of low mood, CBT techniques offer an effective psychological treatment.

For example, Activity Scheduling enables you to assess tasks you do every week, rating your enjoyment for each. This will help you identify and plan activities that fill you with happiness alongside your daily responsibilities, without overstretching yourself beyond your limits.

How effective is CBT for heart conditions?

Whether recovering from a heart attack or living with heart disease, being diagnosed with a coronary condition can massively impact how you live the rest of your life. 

You could have to live with newfound chest pain, restricting your ability to perform certain activities or exercises. Or you might need to make sweeping changes to your diet and career to manage your long-term condition.

Whatever the diagnosis, living with any type of heart condition can be emotionally and physically taxing. Big adjustments, restrictive limitations and feelings of mortality all add to the stress and anxiety of an already challenging time.

Image showing how 68% of people with heart condition say it affects mental wellbeing and only a third talk about it with someone - infographic

If you find it difficult managing your thoughts, feelings and emotions, CBT for heart conditions can introduce valuable techniques, such as Worry Time, that tackle hypothetical anxieties that may inflame your heart condition.

Dedicating just 20 minutes each day to writing down what’s troubling you can prevent these thoughts from weighing on your mind all day, managing your stress levels and allowing you to focus on everything you can do.

How effective is CBT for lung conditions?

Lung conditions such as asthma, COPD and cystic fibrosis can have a significant impact on someone's physical health and overall quality of life.

  • Coughing can interrupt concentration and sleep
  • Shortness of breath may make exercise harder
  • Difficulty breathing could make travelling impossible

If you have these persistent physical symptoms, it’s common to struggle imagining yourself doing many of the activities you are responsible for, or enjoy doing. This realisation could severely affect your general outlook and overall opinion of yourself.

You might find it difficult adapting to life with a lung condition. If you feel this way, know that you’re not alone and that help is available. Cognitive behavioural therapy provides you with tools to adopt healthy behaviours and lead a more satisfying life.

For instance, Goal Setting encourages you to set SMART goals that align with your core values. As an example, if you were a keen walker prior to your condition, you might be encouraged to plan manageable outdoor trips at a comfortable pace to boost your wellbeing. This can increase feelings of fulfilment while never exceeding your physical limits.

How effective is CBT for diabetes?

Diabetes is a physical health problem characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, such as cardiac disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

This means a diabetes diagnosis often requires notable lifestyle changes. You may need to carefully watch what you eat, and develop a strict exercise plan. However, it is not just these drastic and sudden lifestyle changes that can alter your wellbeing.

Relying on insulin makes everyday tasks riskier, which may trigger depression and anxiety, and act as an obstacle to self-care. You might need to take extra precautions when travelling, or carefully watch what you drink.

Life with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can be a huge emotional challenge. CBT for diabetes helps to ease this burden, encouraging you to adopt healthy habits that change the way you think, feel and behave for the better.

One such CBT technique is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PGMR). Whenever you’re feeling tense or anxious, you can use PGMR to de-stress and relax muscles all over the body, and cleanse your mind of relentless worries. This helps to focus your mind on the present, and not the stresses that can come with a diabetes diagnosis.

How effective is CBT for fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and tenderness in specific areas of the body.

The heightened feelings of pain and stiffness associated with this condition make it difficult for individuals to engage in pleasurable activities, or perform once-routine daily tasks.

Being forced to change how you live your life might bring on feelings of frustration and symptoms of depression. If you used to be particularly outgoing or busy, you might even start to question your worth and your ability.

These types of thoughts can dramatically affect your self-esteem and over time may even cause new physical symptoms, starting a vicious cycle across your emotional wellbeing, and to an extent, your physical wellbeing.

CBT for fibromyalgia can teach you how to spot these negative, harmful thoughts and challenge them effectively. This will help you break these vicious cycles and form more balanced, logical thoughts, which in turn benefits your overall mood and feelings of self-worth.

How effective is CBT for undiagnosed pain?

Surprisingly, as many as 1 in 4 people who visit their GP have physical health symptoms that can’t be explained.

Persistent physical symptoms can take many forms, like chest pain, stomach problems or heart palpitations. The development of these symptoms often impact what people can do, and their lifestyle, as well as have a psychological impact.

If you’ve been diagnosed with symptoms with no clear cause, it’s common to feel frustrated, distressed and helpless. You might also feel as though your concerns aren’t taken seriously by friends, family or your GP.

Although CBT is a psychological treatment, we fully accept that your physical symptoms are real. By learning how to solve problems, and find creative, effective ways to move forward with your condition, you can better manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

The CBT process for effective physical health and mental health therapy and treatment - infographic image

How long does CBT take?

How long cognitive behavioural therapy takes to complete will vary depending on the individual, their specific needs and their goals.

You may find that you’re seeing positive, tangible improvements in your mood and condition after just a few sessions. For others, meaningful changes may only begin to take effect months into treatment.

Our experienced CBT practitioners at Therapy For You are happy to discuss your specific circumstances over the phone or online, to give you a clearer assessment of how long your course may take, and to determine your most suitable treatment option.

What can I expect during CBT sessions?

Starting out with CBT can be a daunting prospect. You may find the idea of sharing your feelings with someone off-putting, or be sceptical about therapy altogether.

At Therapy For You, our practitioners strive to create an atmosphere that makes exploring personal situations as comfortable as possible. We put you at ease, get to know you and your circumstances, and encourage you to progress at your own pace.

During treatment, you will gain skills that you’ll put into practice outside of sessions. This could involve creating a baseline diary to assess your day-to-day activities, or practising Worry Time to calm racing thoughts. For CBT to produce the desired results and help you feel better, it is important you play an active role from start to finish.

For more on what to expect from therapy, read Cora’s story.

Is CBT right for me?

If you’re one of the millions of people currently living with a persistent physical health problem in England, we understand how difficult life can feel, especially if it has stopped you from doing the things you enjoy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can start your journey to a more positive, confident and assured outlook, and help you manage your symptoms in a way that benefits your wellbeing.

We make CBT as accessible as possible, knowing that the type of therapy you need, and the way you access it, may be very different to someone else in your situation. That’s why we provide a range of treatment options:

  • Our online NHS CBT course can help you manage the challenges of living with a physical health problem through 10 video modules, accessible at your own leisure
  • We also offer a one-to-one counselling service, where you can privately speak about your long-term condition, and the troubles you’re facing, with a qualified therapist
  • Group therapy sessions allow you to talk about your thoughts and feelings in a confidential setting, with people who are experiencing similar challenges
  • ieso’s online typed counselling service is carried out through secure online text sessions, accessible on any internet connected device 
  • Try NHS video therapy if you would like to speak to a therapist face to face, but cannot or prefer not to travel to in-person sessions
  • If you’re unable to attend regular therapy in person, telephone therapy sessions mean CBT can be conducted over a call, at a time and place that best suits you

Speak to a member of our clinical assistance team for more information on Therapy For You, our service and how you can start treatment.

Looking for support with your long-term physical health problems in Essex?

We hope that this page has given you a greater understanding of cognitive behavioural therapy, and the benefits it offers to those living with a physical health problem.

While CBT cannot take away your physical symptoms, it can make a huge difference in breaking vicious cycles of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that impact on your mood. This can help you take massive strides in how you view yourself and inspire a more positive, reassuring outlook on life with your condition.

If you are ready to get started, try our free online CBT course “Living Well with Physical Health Problems”. This will allow you to learn valuable skills to better manage your mental wellbeing and quell unhelpful thoughts, and can be accessed at a time and place to suit you.

Start today, or for more on our other paths to treatment, get in touch to book a telephone assessment with one of our qualified therapists.

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