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Living Well with Chronic Kidney Disease

Emotional well-being

For many individuals, finding out their results of kidney failure may come as a great shock. It can be emotionally tolling for patients to deal with their changing health and its impact to their future. It takes time for patients to accept and adjust to a life with chronic kidney disease. Although it may be challenging, most people return to their former outlook on life over time.

In general, patients undergo five emotional stages when first discovering that they have kidney complications. None of these stages have to go in order.

Denial is the primary reaction when people first discover their results of chronic kidney disease. They do not accept the fact that they may need dialysis or a transplant and oftentimes believe that their blood test may be incorrect or mixed up with someone else. People who have the most difficulty accepting the diagnosis are usually those who have had very little warning from the beginning.

Anger is another immediate emotion that may be associated with the news of kidney failure. Individuals may be angry towards themselves for being sick, angry at doctors or health care providers for not discovering the disease sooner or the fact that it cannot be cured. However, the emotion gradually fades once they learn that rather than expressing their emotion negatively, it is easier to simply accept the diagnosis, adjust their dietary and living habits, and be in control.

Bargaining is a normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and is often a need to regain control. To gain control individuals may try to bargain their way out of situations by making deals with themselves or higher powers. People may promise themselves that they will continue to exercise, go on a diet, or stop smoking if their kidneys work again. Although these changes can help slow the progression of kidney disease, it will not change the diagnosis.

The final stage is acceptance. During this stage, patients learn to live with chronic kidney disease.  Being informed about proper treatment and lifestyle changes, patients can return to a normal life. Talking to friends, family, and healthcare provides can help ease the transition into a new lifestyle.

Depression and anxiety

One of the most common emotions that people face when they hear the news of kidney failure is depression and anxiety. Feeling depressed and anxious is very common in the course of living with the disease. A new lifestyle and treatment can also be hard to adjust to. What is extremely helpful during this time is sharing concerns and feelings with others. With the help of the kidney care team, friends and family, patients are able to maintain their quality of life and adjust to living with chronic kidney disease.