New Arthritis Diagnosis: Take Control 

Learn how to combat the uncertainty and loss of control that comes with a new arthritis diagnosis. 

By Linda Rath

When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness like inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis, it’s natural to feel like your life is out of control. After all, the world you’re used to has changed overnight. But it’s important to move past that feeling as quickly as possible. Many studies show that patients who have a strong sense of control experience less pain, fatigue and disability than those who feel powerless.

Why Control Matters

Psychologists define control as the belief that you can make positive things happen. Its opposite, fatalism, is the sense that you can’t. In both health and disease, control is by far the better way to go. For one thing, it means you’re more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you believe you can lose weight, get stronger, and feel better, you will. If you’re convinced you can’t stick to a diet or walk a mile, then you probably won’t. Feeling in control is also an important part of disease management.

What the Science Says

Why is this? Positive and negative expectations and beliefs change brain chemistry, explains Lauren Atlas, PhD, who heads the section on affective neuroscience and pain at the National Institutes of Health.. Positive beliefs stimulate the production of pain-blocking chemicals like endogenous opioids and dopamine. Negative beliefs trigger the release of an anxiety-provoking hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). Not only does CCK make you feel bad, it also blocks the effectiveness of pain treatments, creating a downward spiral.

Control in Action

April Vallerand, PhD, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, used these ideas to develop a program that helps patients regain control of their lives. One important aspect is learning the best way to think and talk about pain and discomfort.

“There’s a certain dynamic that happens when people complain, so we try to change that dynamic,” Vallerand says. She suggests making conversations about your illness concrete and actionable – a positive instead of a negative approach. For more ways to coach yourself through tough times and to cultivate a more positive attitude, click here. 

The program also asks patients to figure out how they can achieve the things that are most meaningful to them. The idea is to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

“My question to patients is always, ‘What does this keep you from doing?’ If I can find out what that is, we can target that specific thing and work to get them back to functioning and doing the things that are important to them,” Vallerand says.

Perspective Matters

Probably the most important testimonials come from arthritis patients themselves. Many say that the best thing they ever did was not to let their disease get the upper hand. There’s the story of a young man who was a serious rock climber. After his PsA diagnosis, he stopped climbing because he lost some of the grip strength in his hands. So, he took up surfing instead. That’s what taking control is all about – remembering that you are not your disease and there are different ways to continue having a fulfilling and productive life.  Challenges in life can take many different forms and managing arthritis will always have ups and downs. Understanding your disease, listening to your body, having open communication with your doctor, managing stress, being kind to yourself, learning when it’s important to say no and connecting with others are some of the important ways to take control and thrive.

 

 

 

 

I Want to Contribute
I Need Help
  • Donate

    Donate

    Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life.

  • Volunteer

    Volunteer

    Join us and become a Champion of Yes. There are many volunteer opportunities available.

  • Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Live Yes! INSIGHTS

    Take part to be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis.

  • Partner

    Partner

    Proud Partners of the Arthritis Foundation make an annual commitment to directly support the Foundation’s mission.

Donate


Ways to Give

Every gift to the Arthritis Foundation will help people with arthritis across the U.S. live their best life. Whether it is supporting cutting-edge research, 24/7 access to one-on-one support, resources and tools for daily living, and more, your gift will be life-changing.

Make a Donation

Help millions of people live with less pain and fund groundbreaking research to discover a cure for this devastating disease. Please, make your urgently-needed donation to the Arthritis Foundation now!

Become a Member

Become an Arthritis Foundation member today for just $20. You'll receive a year's worth of Arthritis Today magazine, access to helpful tools, resources, and more.

Make a Honor or Memorial Gift

Honor a loved one with a meaningful donation to the Arthritis Foundation. We'll send a handwritten card to the honoree or their family notifying them of your thoughtful gift.

Gift Planning

I want information on ways to remember the AF in my will, trust or other financial planning vehicles.
 

Volunteer


Volunteer Opportunities

The Arthritis Foundation is focused on finding a cure and championing the fight against arthritis with life-changing information, advocacy, science and community. We can only achieve these goals with your help. Strong, outspoken and engaged volunteers will help us conquer arthritis. By getting involved, you become a leader in our organization and help make a difference in the lives of millions. Join us and become a Champion of Yes.


More About Volunteering

Live Yes! INSIGHTS


Give Just 10 Minutes.

Tell us what matters most to you. Change the future of arthritis.

By taking part in the Live Yes! INSIGHTS assessment, you’ll be among those changing lives today and changing the future of arthritis, for yourself and for 54 million others. And all it takes is just 10 minutes.

Your shared experiences will help:

- Lead to more effective treatments and outcomes
- Develop programs to meet the needs of you and your community
- Shape a powerful agenda that fights for you

Now is the time to make your voice count, for yourself and the entire arthritis community. 

Currently this program is for the adult arthritis community.  Since the needs of the juvenile arthritis (JA) community are unique, we are currently working with experts to develop a customized experience for JA families. 

How are you changing the future?

By sharing your experience, you’re showing decision-makers the realities of living with arthritis, paving the way for change. You’re helping break down barriers to care, inform research and create resources that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own.

Get Started

Partner


Meet Our Partners

As a partner, you will help the Arthritis Foundation provide life-changing resources, science, advocacy and community connections for people with arthritis, the nations leading cause of disability. Join us today and help lead the way as a Champion of Yes.

Trailblazer

Our Trailblazers are committed partners ready to lead the way, take action and fight for everyday victories. They contribute $2,000,000 to $2,749,000

Visionary

Our Visionary partners help us plan for a future that includes a cure for arthritis. These inspired and inventive champions have contributed $1,500,00 to $1,999,999.

Pioneer

Our Pioneers are always ready to explore and find new weapons in the fight against arthritis. They contribute $1,000,000 to $1,499,999.

Pacesetter

Our Pacesetters ensure that we can chart the course for a cure for those who live with arthritis. They contribute $500,000 to $999,000.

Signature

Our Signature partners make their mark by helping us identify new and meaningful resources for people with arthritis. They contribute $250,000 to $499,999.

Supporting

Our Supporting partners are active champions who provide encouragement and assistance to the arthritis community. They contribute $100,000 to $249,999.