Six Ways to Cope With a Difficult Diagnosis


Knowing your diagnosis of a serious illness brings a range of emotions, including fear, denial, and hopelessness. The situation might become so difficult for some patients that they often lose the desire to undergo treatment and live anymore. But in reality, whatever the illness, you have to accept the fact, grapple with the situation, and think about future actions.

As soon as you get out of this situation and start looking at your available options, your chances for a better prognosis improve tremendously. A delayed diagnosis can transform a simple illness into something acutely serious.

Moreover, you must realize that feeling a range of emotions is a normal response for everyone. But you can't be weak or lose hope or not be prepared to fulfill the mental and physical challenges that are waiting for you. Keeping your mind optimistic will help you take the proper steps and reach the help you need in your difficult situation. You might be surprised to discover the emotional strength that you never thought was there in all this process. Here are some ways to help you or someone near you cope with a difficult diagnosis.

  1. Reach out for help

You can look for help from your family or health practitioners, such as a nurse in the hospital. Strangely, most people feel comfortable confiding in nurses before they go to a doctor. This might be because of their years of experience dealing with patients going through difficult diagnoses. Moreover, nurses also have educational expertise that prepares them for such jobs. For instance, like a Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree programs are carefully developed to prepare nurses to understand the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of curing patients. Knowledge gained through these advanced degree programs helps nurses combine their theoretical knowledge with the personal characteristics of empathy and compassion, making them skilled enough to help you deal with this uncertain situation in life. You can discuss your situation with these experienced professionals, who can help patients like you understand their medical conditions and cope with a difficult diagnosis.

  1. Tell yourself that it is okay to be upset

Some people try to suppress their emotional responses, which accompany such difficult diagnoses. This is not necessarily a positive attitude because your emotions help you understand the situation and make the right decisions. Research also does not show that a feeling of anger, fear, and confusion makes you sicker. But suppressing such emotions and pushing them down can make matters worse because it may lead to denial and the unacceptance of your current medical situation.

On the contrary, giving in to your emotions for some time, being angry for why it happened to you, and grieving the loss of your health is much better than subduing them. If you accept the fact, be realistic about your situation, and show natural emotions of grief and sadness, it is possible to gradually come out of this situation. Later, you may start paying attention to more urgent matters like getting a second opinion and adopting the best treatment plan.

  1. Get to know more about your medical condition

Patients who know more about their illness often have better patient outcomes because of their support to the doctors in administering the right treatment plans. However, knowing your disease does not mean that you have to cram the cell biology and latest innovations in the field. This much information is not only incomprehensible for you, but it is also highly overwhelming. Therefore, try to know the basics of your disease, the treatment administered to you and its efficacy, and potential side effects. It is okay to get all the information gradually as you proceed in your treatment. Your doctor can also guide you about the information that you need to know at every step. By knowing more about your disease, you may feel more control over your situation, fizzling out the initial helplessness. But in the end, get as much information as you are comfortable managing; not all patients have the same capacity to process a hefty dose of information.

  1. Plan for your appointment strategically

Now that you have plenty of information about your disease and the possible treatments options available to you, you must plan for your appointments with a specialist. It is possible that during the initial meetings, you might have been so distraught with emotions and stress that you did not understand and remember what the doctor said to you. And now that you have come out of that situation to some extent, you can better understand your doctor. So you have to ask everything again, and to do so, write all your potential questions before your appointment with the doctor. This way you won’t forget any important things you want to know about.

Bringing along an additional set of ears is a good idea too. So, even if you miss or forget about some things, you will have your backup already prepared. Many doctors understand the seriousness of the situation and let you record the meetings, dosage plans, and timings of taking your medication. By navigating your way through your illness, you can focus more on your treatment than the stress induced by your illness.

  1. Develop a support network

In a serious diagnosis, you want the support of your family and friends to help fulfill your needs. The common consequence of all serious illnesses is persistent fatigue and lethargy to do anything. Taking the help of your loved ones in matters like taking you to the doctor, looking after your kids, sending and bringing them back from school, doing your laundry, etc., will help relieve the strain of what will happen to your family.

Family and friends can be a great support if you confide in them and discuss your problems with them. Find someone who will listen to you attentively, note your difficulties, and help without judging you. With such people in your life, you will realize how easy it has become to live and deal with a difficult diagnosis, which is enough to tire you mentally and physically.

  1. Keep all the records organized

There will be a lot of documents, prescriptions, test reports, and much more. It is essential to be organized and keep all information and records in one place to quickly access them when needed. You must also keep photocopies of all the insurance cards and other documents. If you are not comfortable keeping your records in a paper file, you can keep their pictures on your smartphone for easy access.


Knowing about a difficult diagnosis is a tough time in one’s life. However, being positive and thinking about your life ahead can make this time easier for you and your loved ones. Taking the help of professionals and your loved ones lets you accept your situation and know more about your illness. Accepting and understanding your diagnosis is also the start of taking remedial actions and improving your life quality.