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How can having a strong social support system help me deal with illness?

When we are tied emotionally to those in our social network, we can express our feelings of fear, insecurity, and guilt, and receive comfort from people who accept us -- just as we are -- with no strings attached. If we have no place that feels safe enough to let down our emotional defenses, we tend to keep our guard up all the time, a negative, cynical, and sometimes defensive guard that masks the very problems we are facing.

There are new findings that social support is important for those with chronic illnesses. Social support may be defined as the sum of all the relationships that make you feel as if you matter to the people who matter to you. Studies have verified that a strong group of family members and close friends or a support system (doctors, nurses, other health care professionals) can help in coping with a chronic illness. In some cases, having this social strength has been associated with people’s greater adherence to medical regimens and use of health services. Social support has a complex effect on well-being, but it is calming and positive. Social support may change your assessment of the stressful event or may prevent you from engaging in damaging behavioral or physiological responses.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.