Arthritis is a painful, debilitating disease that can not only affect your physical health but your mental health as well. Being diagnosed with any form of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus or gout means facing a vast array of symptoms, which may manifest into mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Studies have shown that there is a significant increase in anxiety and depression in people with arthritis-related diseases; in fact, the rates may be as high as two to ten times higher than the rates of anxiety and depression among the general population.
The Endless Loop
Living with pain on a daily basis is extremely stressful, both emotionally and physically. Studies have shown that people who are living with arthritis with high pain levels are also likely to be depressed or anxious. Unfortunately, the pain that incites the depression and anxiety causes a change in the release of hormones and neurochemicals in the body, such as serotonin, cortisol and norepinephrine, which affect your thinking, behavior and mood. This disruption in chemical balance can lead to depression, which in turn creates more pain, because depression weakens the ability to cope with and deal with their pain. So, the pain of RMD creates depression and anxiety, which in turn creates more pain-for a never endless loop of disruption in body.
Arthritis and Social Impairment
Living with arthritis can be painful as well as exhausting and the fatigue and the inflammation that go with the disease can only bring you further down. If you are living with arthritis or arthritis and a co-occurring condition such as a heart condition or diabetes, you are likely to become even more exhausted and isolated. Dealing with the pain of arthritis can significantly impact your activities, which may cause you to become more isolated. These negative changes in your lifestyle can increase the pain as well as lessen your overall mood, bringing on depression and anxiety. It is critical that you not only seek the appropriate treatment for your arthritis, but that you also treat the depression. Learning to live your life again is the most important step you can take in overcoming the symptoms of arthritis.
Symptoms of Mental Health Imbalances
Understanding and identifying the symptoms of a mental health imbalance is the first and most important step in overcoming it. It is critical that you not ignore the signs of depression. It is common for people to think that their symptoms of depression are unrelated to their diagnosis of arthritis, but the two often go hand-in-hand. Some signs of mental health imbalances may include:
- Feeling less optimistic than you once did
- Having a loss of interest in the work and activities that you once enjoyed
- Experiencing sleep problems, such as waking up through the night or having difficulty falling asleep or the opposite, such as oversleeping and staying in bed longer than you usually do
- Changes in your appetite, such as overeating or not eating as often as you should
- Feelings of sadness or irritability or frequently crying
- Experiencing frequent headaches or stomach aches
- Feeling a sense of worthlessness
- Having suicidal thoughts
Ways You Can Manage Your Depression
The most important thing to keep in mind is that it is possible to manage both your depression and your arthritis. The first step in learning to cope is to visit your doctor for a regular checkup. While visiting with the doctor be sure to mention the symptoms of depression that you may be experiencing. Along with the medical recommendations, there are several things you can do to cope with and manage your depression, such as going to therapy, joining a support group, become more active and follow a healthy diet plan as well as getting your arthritis symptoms under control.
If you are struggling with your mental health or your rheumatic condition, talk to your primary doctor or your Arthritis Center of Lexington rheumatologist. It's okay not to be okay.