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Physical health

Chronic or acute health conditions that affect a person’s physical wellbeing can also affect their mental wellbeing. Although the type of physical conditions from which a person can suffer will vary hugely, the impact felt by the person and those near to them in terms of their mental health, can be more immediately recognisable as depression, fear, anxiety, and anger. Talk therapy can be a good place to start in supporting someone's mental wellbeing during or after an illness.
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What chronic health conditions are there?

How do I know if I have ADHD? Does my child have ADHD?

Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Hot temper.
  • Trouble coping with stress.

What ADHD is not

The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).

At what age do ADHD symptoms appear?

Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.

How long does ADHD last?

ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.

How many people have ADHD?

In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.

What causes ADHD?

We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Problems during development.

What are the risk factors for ADHD?

The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:

  • Family members suffer from ADHD.
  • During pregnancy the mother smokes, drinks, or uses drugs.
  • A child is premature.

What are the impacts of delayed diagnosis of ADHD?

ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance.
  • Unemployment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Trouble with the police.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Unstable relationships.
  • Poor self-esteem.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Making the diagnosis normally includes:

  • Asking questions about symptoms and family medical history.
  • ADHD tests to measure symptoms.

What are the treatments for ADHD?

ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:

  • Medication.
  • Therapy.

ADHD medication

Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.

Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.

Therapy for ADHD

Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.

Help and information about ADHD

ADHD (NHS Choices)

NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.

ADHD Foundation

For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.

Young Minds

Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in

Physical health

Autoimmune diseases

This huge group of diseases includes rheumatoid arthritis , lupus, type 1 diabetes and psoriasis. For many of these diseases, the symptoms can be managed, but almost all are chronic conditions.

Chronic gut problems

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn's and colitis are painful, isolating chronic conditions that affect thousands of people. People with chronic gut problems may worry about how the disease affects their ability to live normally, and in some cases the condition might have already hospitalised them or put their life at risk.

Chronic pain

Fibromyalgia, chronic neck or back pain is isolating and restrictive. Pain and depression are closely correlated, and the risk of developing depression increases with pain symptoms.


A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, whatever stage a person is diagnosed at and whatever the prognosis. For many people, it will be the first life-threatening diagnosis they ever face, and will raise a host of feelings and thoughts – some of which will be hard to voice. Experts have also remarked on an increase in the risk of depression after successful treatment of cancer.

Some therapists specialise in working with cancer patients (and some of those chose to specialise after surviving cancer themselves).


This painful gynaecological condition was for years misdiagnosed as psychosomatic, or as a mental health problem. It is where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries. It is estimated that 1 in 10 women or people who were assigned female at birth have endometriosis. Treatment can be aggressive, but leaving a person to suffer without a diagnosis can be equally brutal.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

MS is a degenerative autoimmune disease without a cure, and a diagnosis is life-changing. It is difficult to know how to cope with news of the condition, and it may be hard to share with loved ones.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

This chronic gynaecological condition affects fertility but often affects the way a person feels and looks. It can put pressure on relationships and marriages if one or both people in a couple is worried about difficulty getting pregnant. For women who aren’t ready to have children, it can create anxiety about the timeframe in which to decide and act quickly on what kind of family they want. Women with PCOS are at higher risk of depression and anxiety.

How do chronic health conditions affect mental health?

People with chronic health problems are at greater risk of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Some chronic health conditions can trigger anxiety disorders such as phobias or PTSD, particularly if a person has had a traumatic hospital stay or procedure.

Am I depressed or anxious, or just sad about my chronic illness?

It would be unusual not to feel low or worried about a chronic health diagnosis, but if signs of depression or anxiety persist then a person might ask for extra support to cope with their mental health.

Language around ‘survivorship’ and ‘fighting’ a chronic condition can create unnecessary pressure on people with chronic health diagnoses and their families. Doctors might expect patients to ‘rise above’ their feelings about diagnoses, updates, prognosis, procedures and treatment. Therapists help people with chronic conditions use their own language and perspective to describe their experience.

How many people have chronic health and mental health problems?

People with chronic health conditions also suffer from mental health problems. Risk of developing depression and anxiety varies according to chronic health diagnosis:

  • Depression and anxiety affect up to 20% and 10% of patients with cancer respectively, across prognoses and time since diagnosis
  • Crohn’s disease-specific post-traumatic stress is frequent
  • A 2016 study found the rates of depression in IBD patients are three times higher than in patients without IBD

What treatments are there for depression and anxiety with chronic health conditions?

Therapy for patients with chronic health conditions

Psychotherapy is an ideal place to get help and support, and to share the experience of living with a chronic health diagnosis. Some therapists specialise in working with people who have a chronic health diagnosis.

Medication to support mental health

Some people with depression related to their chronic illness respond well to taking antidepressants. They can take medication by itself, or combine it with therapy.

Developing new habits

There is growing evidence that there are some behavioural interventions that support the treatment of mild depression in people with chronic health conditions. Exercise, sleep, stress management and social interaction are all recommended during treatment or to manage symptoms.