Mental and Emotional Well-Being
Endometriosis is a condition that can impact some of the most intimate aspects of a woman's life, such as her sex life, her menstrual cycle, and her fertility. Furthermore, endometriosis is a chronic condition without a cure at this time. Although there are treatment options that exist to provide symptom relief, many women with endometriosis will battle pain, discomfort, and other endometriosis-related symptoms for a large portion of their life. In addition to the long-term management of these issues, it's also possible for a woman to experience a delay in diagnosis of endometriosis for years. The average delay in receiving an accurate diagnosis may be five to ten years, or more. During this time, a woman may visit several providers and undergo many tests, leading to high medical bills. All of these factors not only take a toll on a woman's physical health, but also her emotional and mental health as well.1
One large review of several studies involving women with endometriosis reported that woman experiencing endometriosis and its related symptoms have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and emotional distress when compared to women without endometriosis.1 Many of the endometriosis-related issues listed above can contribute to this increase in mental health conditions and stress for those with the condition. Mental health-related conditions can be life-changing and even fatal if not addressed appropriately. However, there are steps you can take to potentially improve your overall emotional well-being, both at home, and with the help of a trained professional. Several of these options are discussed below.2,3
Keep open lines of communication with those close to you
Endometriosis and its related symptoms may make connecting with those closest to you more difficult than usual. If you're experiencing pain during sex, it may impact your intimate relationships. If you're experiencing chronic pelvic pain or painful periods, it sometimes may be difficult to get out of the house and enjoy activities with your friends and family. Although it may be hard to talk about your endometriosis, closing off communication with your friends, family, and intimate partners during these times may put a strain on these relationships. This strain may eventually take a toll on these relationships and lead to further distress.
Being open with those closest to you, and letting them know what you're going through may make things clearer for all involved. Your friends and family may better understand why you have to cancel plans last minute due to pain, and may suggest new activities that are more accessible when you're struggling. Your intimate partners may be more understanding of any changes in your sex life. All of these conversations and adjustments can help decrease stress and improve mental health outcomes related to your personal relationships.
You may also find interpersonal support in support groups for endometriosis. These groups may be found in-person, or online like ours, and contain many individuals just like you who you can talk to and share experiences with. These individuals may be able to help you find ways to best communicate with your loved ones and share strategies that have helped them thus far.
Practice mind-soothing activities
We can take care of our minds in a variety of ways. Some individuals believe in the mind-body connection, which is a philosophy that states that the mind (our thoughts, feelings, and outlook) can impact the body, positively and negatively. For example, a positive outlook and positive thoughts may help decrease pain and improve physical health, while a negative outlook may do the opposite. Mind-soothing activities and activities that foster the mind-body connection include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, coloring, and more.4
Participate in enjoyable hobbies or find new activities to try
Taking time to participate in activities that you love may make a difference in your emotional well-being, and, depending on the activity, may be a great way to connect with your loved ones. In some cases, old hobbies may not be feasible, especially when battling endometriosis-related symptoms. If you can no longer participate in an activity you once enjoyed, it may be time to try something new. Embracing new hobbies that are enjoyable and keep your mind and body engaged when you're having a rough day may help foster strong emotional and mental well-being.
Take care of your physical health
Although there is no specific diet found to definitely provide relief for endometriosis and its related symptoms, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding drugs and alcohol can all improve an individual's emotional well-being.5 Additionally, exercising can also improve an individual's mental and emotional health. Although it may be difficult to think about exercising when experiencing pain and other endometriosis-related symptoms, even light exercise can impact the mind and body positively. Exercise increases the body's levels of endorphins, which are chemicals that make us feel "good" and that can help reduce pain.6 Both of which may help improve emotional well-being for anyone, especially those with endometriosis.
Recognize warning signs and take the appropriate steps
Even after making positive lifestyle changes, enlisting the support of friends and family, and taking care of your physical health, an individual's emotional well-being may not be at its strongest. It is important to recognize when you are experiencing thoughts and feelings that are indicative of depression, anxiety, or distress. Some of these feelings may include hopelessness, loss of desire, nervousness, sleep changes, appetite changes, mood changes, feeling disconnected, or a decrease in overall functioning, among other experiences.7 If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of mental illness, seek professional support immediately. The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Treatment Referral Helpline can provide you with information on treatment services in your area, and can be reached at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727).
If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, has attempted suicide, or is experiencing other dangerous signs of emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-877-273-8255). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has an online chat available 24/7 in the United States.8