Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Depression and RA

     Depression is a common comorbidity of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Why?  For many people living with RA, chronic pain = depression.  If you're in constant pain, constantly tired, constantly reminded of things you cannot do or can't do without help, it's very difficult to remain happy and cheerful.

     I think there are three main contributors to developing depression while living with RA:

  1. Constant pain: it is relentless and never easy to relieve
  2. Chronic, progressive, incurable nature of the disease: it never stops, it will get worse and we still don't know how to cure it
  3. Invisible illness: no one can see or feel the pain, fatigue, the stress, or the daily difficulties... and sometimes people refuse to believe or support what they can't see
     All suffering, left untreated, can lead to some form of depression.
     There are two main types of depression:
  • Major Depression is a disabling episode that interferes with daily life for at least a two-week period.  The most characterizing symptom is thoughts of suicide or attempts to end life.  At least five of these symptoms must also be present.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (also known as dysthymia) is less severe than major depression but has been present for at least two years.  Symptoms are similar to major depression but generally include low energy, insomnia/oversleeping and poor appetite/overeating.  Stress and irritability are usually present with this form of depression.
       It is important to find help if you are feeling depressed.  You must remember that depression is an illness, just like RA.  Therefore, treatment from a medical professional, psychiatrist or a psychotherapist is necessary.  Various types of medication and effective forms of therapy are available to help you.  Talking with a friend can help too.  Everyone needs a support system, at least one other person to lean on in times of trouble.  But if you think you are suffering from any form of depression or if you have thoughts of suicide, please seek professional help, call a hotline or go to the ER immediately.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

American Psychological Association

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