Five drama masks in a line, each showing a different emotion.

The 5 Stages: Coping With A New Diagnosis

Last updated: February 2022

A diagnosis for the common cold may be a little annoying and require some changes for a brief amount of time such as getting extra rest and drinking more fluids. But what about a diagnosis that changes your life forever?

Receiving the diagnosis of a chronic condition, like thyroid eye disease, can feel frustrating, ominous, and often confusing. It can be one of the most overwhelming of life's experiences and lead to a roller coaster of emotions. It is often said that the 5 stages of grief that are typically associated with death or loss are also applicable to beginning your journey with a chronic condition.

Understanding these stages can help you manage the various feelings that come with a life-changing diagnosis.

Coping with a new thyroid eye disease diagnosis

The 5 stages of grief include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is helpful to remember that not everyone who has been diagnosed with a chronic condition will experience all of these stages. Some may not experience any of the stages and some may experience them in different orders. Let’s look at some of the features of each of the stages.

Denial

In the first stage of grief, you may find yourself rejecting the diagnosis you received. You may seek out second opinions from other doctors hoping that the diagnosis is incorrect. You may research the disease to try to refute their diagnosis. Some may not share the news with those who are close to them in hopes that the news might not be correct.

You may find yourself saying things such as: “That doesn’t sound, right?” or “There must be another explanation.”

Anger

Maybe you skipped the denial part and instead first experienced anger. A diagnosis of a chronic condition may lead you to feel like you want to yell or scream or punch a pillow. You may feel resentment toward others who do not have your diagnosis and who may not understand what it is like to live a day in your shoes.

You may say things such as: “This isn’t fair!” You may feel annoyed or mad at your family members, your job or coworkers, and the stranger in front of you at the grocery store. In this stage, you may even feel anger toward yourself.

Bargaining

The third stage of grief is known as bargaining. The bargaining stage is about trying to regain some of the control you may feel you lost when receiving the diagnosis. Some people may negotiate with a higher power that they believe in to help wrangle the thoughts they are having.

You may say such things as “If you make this go away I promise to…” You may wonder if you had done something differently or if you promised to change certain ways if the situation will change or even disappear.

Depression

This stage is about grieving the loss of your current self or former self. You may also feel sad if you are not able to do things you did before. Feeling depressed with the news can sometimes overtake a person. During this stage it may be helpful to seek support from others. This could either be close friends or family or from a licensed professional. This stage can be easy to fall into and hard to get out of.

Acceptance

Arriving at the stage of acceptance may take some time. There comes a point when you will “make peace” with the diagnosis and realize that it does not define who you are. In this stage, you have a much better understanding of the condition, you learn methods of coping with it and how your new life can be with the condition. When you embrace the inevitable you open doors that can lead to understanding and even opportunities.

No matter if you experience 1 stage or all the stages, remember that feeling these feelings can be normal as you process how the diagnosis will affect your day-to-day and long-term goals. There is no set time limit that people experience in each stage.

Embrace the stages of grief and learn how to use them to help you guide the physical, emotional, and psychological journey of managing your new diagnosis. Remember that on this journey and you are NOT alone. There are others who have walked this journey before you and who are there to serve as companions on this emotional roller coaster. Never be afraid to ask for help here in our community and know that there are always people that are listening and are here for you!

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Did you experience the 5 stages of grief upon being diagnosed with thyroid eye disease? Share your story with the community on how you handled your diagnosis and what advice you might give to someone beginning on this new path.

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