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Crohn's And U: The College Years

What It Means to Have a Chronic Disease Like Crohn's

When we talk about chronic diseases, we must also talk about issues of compliance, because chronic disease may require chronic therapy. Research suggests that up to 40% of all people with chronic diseases, Crohn’s included, will stop taking their medications. Although the term "compliance" is used by most physicians and in contemporary medical literature, it implies obedience to a set of rules. It’s natural to want to break free from someone telling you what to do!

One of the common misconceptions about Crohn’s disease is that people living with Crohn’s only need to take their medication when they feel sick. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. By now, you are probably all too aware that Crohn’s is a chronic illness, which means that it won’t magically disappear. When you have Crohn’s, you must keep taking your medicine even when you are feeling well, in order to keep feeling well. This is what it means to have a chronic medical condition.

But dwelling on the negative aspects of Crohn’s treatment is an unproductive and unpleasant way to live. You can feel better, both mentally and physically, by taking the necessary steps to manage your health.

Understand your frustration

What are the psychological implications of taking medication for a chronic medical condition like Crohn’s? Well, a chronic condition requires us to think in a new way about taking medication. Usually, we’re used to taking medicine only until a problem goes away. Let's say you have a headache. College students get headaches for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you’re worrying about your next final or your roommate kept you up too late. Or maybe you had one too many at last night's party. You probably would take something for that headache, which will ultimately go away for good. Once your headache is gone, you certainly wouldn't continue taking medicine. But unfortunately, unlike a headache, chronic conditions don’t just go away. So we have to find a way to manage them continually.

So why are we so susceptible to stopping our medication? For some, the cost becomes too burdensome. For others, it becomes a constant reminder that we are living with Crohn's disease, and we wishfully think that if we don't take our medication, we won’t have Crohn’s. At times, we may feel like we are too busy to maintain our treatment regimen. Every time we take our medication, we may also have to face the stigma of having a chronic illness, as well as all of the side effects.

If we only focus on these thoughts, none of us in our right minds would want to take our medications. But focusing on the negative aspects of medication distracts us from the most important point: Following our doctor’s instructions to manage our Crohn’s, all the time, is what we can do to feel better.

Have the right attitude

If you find yourself making excuses, try to remember the misery of your last Crohn’s flare. Also, talk to your physician. Work to create an open and honest conversation, focusing on care and collaboration, rather than compliance and chronicity. Find creative ways of dealing with any difficulty staying on your medicine.

For example, if you find it difficult to remember to take your medication, try setting an alarm on your phone or leaving yourself some other type of reminder. If you find that your wish to be rid of the disease is increasing your desire to stop taking your medicine, think of alternative outlets for expressing that frustration, such as connecting with a support group. Seeking the empathy of those who really understand your frustration can do a lot to help you stay on track for good health.

We all think about living with Crohn’s disease and our treatments a lot, but it’s important to distinguish between constructive and destructive thinking. Achieving a healthy way of thinking about your treatment regimen will go a long way towards improving your day-to-day mindset and experience.

Manage your treatment schedule!

Sometimes having the right tools can make it easier to achieve your health goals. When you’re living with Crohn's, it can be hard to keep track of your symptoms, dosing schedule, and doctor appointments.

Staying on top of your health progress is a good way to pay closer attention to your body's signals. For example, knowing exactly what you ate on a rough day might give you a better picture of what kinds of foods to avoid. With information like this, you can also have a more informed, productive discussion with your doctor. By keeping track of your health, you can get better in tune with your body, your condition, and things you can do to feel better!