Coping Techniques for Endometriosis
Many of us view coping as the ability to overcome problems in life. However, it may be more helpful to view coping as a process made up of a variety of strategies called into play when facing stressful events.
While it can be tempting to enthusiastically delve into one approach or alternative treatment, women and psychologists specializing in coping mechanisms have found that finding a balance between several techniques offers the most stress relief.
The following are coping mechanisms as identified by Dr. Silverton in the study “Psychological Adjustment and Coping Strategies of Women with Endometriosis.” See The Endometriosis Sourcebook for the full article and chapter on coping.
- Optimism: Staying hopeful while at the same time realistic about the disease; displaying a balanced outlook.
- Acceptance: Acknowledging that you are experiencing pain is a positive first step in dealing with it.
- Reaffirmation of Healthy Functioning: Placing an emphasis on staying healthy and functional rather than focusing on the fear of becoming dysfunctional. Women displaying this coping skill acted in ways they felt were health promoting, such as eating healthy, exercising, and relying on stress reduction techniques. This strategy helps women build an internal image of being in control.
- Tension release: Some may find the need to “let go” or “vent their emotions.” Having a good cry is an example of this strategy. Tension release is used to let out anger, sadness, and despair.
- Seeking out social support: Seeking out support through groups and from friends, family, doctors, and co-workers.
- Problem-solving: This strategy adopts an active “take charge” attitude toward their own medical care and treatment. These women typically become walking encyclopedias on the illness. They’re also willing to try nontraditional treatments, such as acupuncture, diet, and creative hobbies.
- Reordering of priorities and goals: Taking inventory of priorities and goals, assessing those which may need to shift, including decisions about childbearing, relationships, marriage, or career planning.
- Active participation: Becoming an active participant in one’s healthcare and medical treatments. Women who perceive themselves as more assertive adjust better to medical treatment overall.
- Selective ignoring: Women focused on the positive consequences of having the illness, a strategy characterized by attitudes such as “I have endo, and it’s a big problem, but this crisis brought me closer to my family and/or friends.”
- Denial: Some women use this strategy to cope with particular aspects of the disease, such as a threat of recurrence, concerns of chronicity, or infertility. Women using this method are more likely to delay getting medical treatment and tend to deny the chronic nature of the disease.
- Negativism: This strategy focuses on bad consequences and anticipates the worst outcome.
- Avoidance: Women who use this coping strategy try to relieve the pain or anxiety caused by endometriosis by distracting themselves or pushing endo-related stress out of their minds. They participate in activities to escape, such as reading, sleeping, and watching television.
- Withdrawal: Going to or staying in bed, avoiding friends, family, or other women with the illness, is typical of this strategy.
- Passive resignation: Women employing this strategy demonstrate helplessness and passivity. They want to be taken care of by family, friends, and their physicians. In extreme cases, they rely on others to make decisions for them.
Keeping a calendar of pain instances can also prove helpful in both mentally and physically coping.
Calendars such as this help women chart when pain is at its worst or when it is more likely to occur, offering those with endometriosis the ability to adjust accordingly. Some women also use the calendar as a tracking tool when visiting the doctor. In addition to the listed coping skills, there are a few other methods women have found helpful in reducing stress and pain.
Women have found that it is stress relieving to find someone to talk with who truly understands the seriousness of endometriosis.
For example, comments from friends or family such as “Don’t give in to the pain” are stressful and will only make one feel worse. Therefore, it’s important to seek help from someone who can view endometriosis realistically.
It is very important to inform others about endometriosis.
People are usually more willing to help when they understand what you are experiencing. The Endometriosis Association has brochures that help explain what endometriosis is, as well as some of the problems it causes.
A special note to parents and teens
Dealing with endometriosis as a teenager can be uniquely challenging. There are times when the disease will interfere with almost all areas of your life, including school attendance, your concentration, energy level, social life, physical activities, and self-confidence.
In addition to the coping skills listed above, teens can also find support by discovering people around them who have knowledge and understanding regarding endometriosis. You may find this person through a support group or online, but it may also be someone you already know.
Likewise, when explaining endometriosis to current friends, remember, they may not immediately understand. It is also helpful that you tell your friends and family what you need the most and how they can best support you.
Speak with teachers and administrators about your diagnosis, as well. If you are uncomfortable doing this, ask a parent or doctor to speak to them.
The parents of teens must also offer ongoing support, asking how they can best help their teen, as well. Issues like poor concentration, pain, fatigue, and nausea or surprise bleeding can make learning difficult. Read the chapter, helping teens with endo: background for parents, doctors, and friends in Endometriosis: The Complete Reference for Taking Charge of Your Health.