Take a moment and think about the last time you had a highly engaging, supportive conversation — one that made you feel empowered to continue reaching your highest level of wellbeing, while holistically managing your autoimmune disorder. Did the conversation happen in a doctor’s office? Over Zoom? With a spouse, a family member, a caring friend? How did the conversation make you feel? Maybe that you felt grounded, that you were not only heard, but listened to — and understood.
If you haven’t yet considered joining an autoimmune support group, it might be time. Making a support group part of your lifestyle can help you create more positive interactions like the one you just brought to mind. The power of a caring group of people capable of supporting your autoimmune journey is a breath of fresh air while living with an autoimmune diagnosis — or while waiting for the diagnosis to be determined. As humans, we thrive when we have people to rely on and trust in times of need, ones who understand our unique situation.
In this article, we’ll talk about what an autoimmune support group is, how it’s connected to your wellbeing, and how to take action to see the benefits for yourself.
What Is an Autoimmune Support Group?
The most common support groups usually aid people with addictions, mental health challenges, or parenting struggles. But with autoimmune disease prevalence on the rise, there is a growing need for support groups tailored to people with 1 or more of nearly 100 autoimmune conditions. (Source, Source)
Autoimmune support groups exist to provide community and compassion around diseases that are often invisible, chronic, and painful. Though the outcome can be therapeutic, support groups are different from therapy because they are typically self-led by peers, health coaches, or other integrative care practitioners — not by a licensed therapist. An autoimmune support group is a safe, non-judgmental space to be supported by individuals with similar experiences or diagnoses, finding comfort, ideas, and even new friendships along the way. (Source)
Why Is Community Support Important?
Connection is a basic human need — we thrive when we have a strong and supportive social circle to lean on. Research has found that feeling connected can lead to a lengthy list of health benefits. From lower blood pressure and BMI to improved overall mental health, being socially integrated is a major factor in your health and wellness. One study even suggests that health care providers could benefit their patients by writing “connection prescriptions” to help improve health outcomes through meaningful interactions! (Source)
Community support is so important that Healthy People 2030, a set of objectives determined by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, includes a specific goal to increase social and community support during this decade. Social cohesion is a priority area because of the health-boosting impacts that positive social connections provide. If you’re more of the introverted type, the evidence shows that you could greatly benefit from stepping outside your comfort zone and forming quality bonds with a supportive group of people. (Source, Source)
Why Should I Be Part of an Autoimmune Support Group?
If you’ve been dealing with autoimmune symptoms for a while, you’re no stranger to the underlying pain and burden of autoimmune disorders — on mind, body, and spirit. So if you feel like you’re searching for more social connection to improve your health and wellbeing, it may be time to consider joining an autoimmune support group, and here are 3 good reasons why:
- Support groups are a proven way to help reduce treatment costs and rates of rehospitalization. We all know the high price of conventional medical care. Support groups offer an affordable way to round out your care plan without adding the high cost of another professional service.
- Support groups are empowering by nature. Participants come to the group as equals, ready to share information, stories, and lived experiences, instead of relying solely on recommendations from a medical provider.
- The benefits aren’t limited to group meetings! The friendly interactions, social bonding, and empathy that are key to a support group may lead you to grow your friend circle and gain close friendships that you devote time to outside of scheduled meetings.
See Real Results With Community-Based Care
If you’re more of the see-to-believe type, look no further: WellTheory has been using a community-based care model that participants have found to be an essential part of their autoimmune journey.
One member, Nicole, shared part of her story: “The community aspect really helped me work more on the lifestyle factors, especially stress management.” She found the validation and team spirit that she was looking for while also achieving her lowest-ever inflammatory blood test results.