The Psychological Effects of Lipedema
and the Case for CBT
It’s no surprise living with lipedema poses immense physical challenges. However, the psychological effects of the fat deposition disorder have equally devastating impacts that are rarely discussed.
Besides living with daily chronic pain, discomfort, swelling and bruising of the skin, decreased mobility, deformity of joints, and other potential health challenges, lipedema patients also fight another, lesser-known battle. The mental obstacles lipedema patients struggle with often include:
- Lack of self-esteem and an increase of self-consciousness due to the increasing size and shape of their growing legs/body
- Personal insecurity leading to social insecurity and isolation from others, especially in social settings and even dating
- Sleep disturbances
- Lack of concentration at work/school
- Fear of what the future holds regarding their health and declination of their body
- Because of a possible misdiagnosis, lipedema sufferers often believe their fat is due to a lack of exercise, proper diet, or motivation on their part, which often leads to extreme exercising and eating disorders (anorexic lipedema)
- Psychological stress
Treatment Options for Managing the Psychological Effects of Lipedema
Lipedema sufferers are encouraged to not only seek support through friends, family, and loved ones, but through online support groups comprised of people dealing with the same daily struggles that plague the entire lipedema community. Lipedema patients should know they’re never alone. Seeking one-on-one counseling can offer tremendous help in reaching milestones in the mental management of the disorder. Joining group activities, such as swimming, dancing, yoga, or meditation/stress reduction classes are all wonderful ways to not only meet like-minded peers but expand creative outlets to help get ahead of the emotional duress lipedema can trigger.
After (finally) realizing their fat is NOT their fault following a proper diagnosis, lipedema patients are often stung with an initial bout of despair as reality sets in and they realize there is no cure for their chronic condition. Anger, depression, anxiety can be overwhelming at first and compound the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. However, it is then that they can begin the healing process, albeit ongoing.
The Tenets of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for Lipedema Patients
The NHS Choices website and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) as significantly impactful for those living with long-term/lifelong conditions, such as lipedema. CBT is a solutions-focused approach to treatment that aims to help patients to not only get better, but STAY better. Therapists and patients devise solutions to overcome psychological obstacles by changing their thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. CBT-related therapies should be modified to take account of the legitimate and specific issues related to lipedema, with a focus on the following:
- Support – communicating lipedema is a life-long condition through no fault of their own
- Empathy – realizing the social stigma and negativity lipedema ladies often face
- Intellectual – accepting the reality and implications of the dreaded diagnosis
- Psychology – what a lipedema diagnosis means to the individual and how it impacts the world and everyone around them
- Behavior – defining what actions are required to construct new ways of navigating life on a day-to-day basis, as well as adhering to a new lifestyle
- Assertiveness – taking decisive action to educate oneself while seeking support, treatment, resources, and networking with others
- Social issues – learning to adjust to family and social structure
- Psychological support – teaching and learning relaxation and stress management methods, such as meditation, yoga, journaling, etc.
- Facilitation – introducing the importance and positivity that group therapy and support groups can bring
CBT has been shown to vastly improve a patient’s outlook towards their condition, as well as promulgate positive, productive ways to learn, cope, live healthfully and mindfully, as well as help others – irrespective of the type of health challenge. While there are extensive amounts of indispensable literature and resources to help lipedema patients navigate the chronic, oftentimes debilitating, physical effects of their disorder, it’s important to keep in mind (no pun intended) the emotional, mental, social, and psychological aspects of dealing with such a misunderstood, complicated condition.
To learn more, please contact our Beverly Hills, California office to schedule a consultation with any of our highly trained specialists