Emotions and Mental Health

Learning that you have a chronic disease like arthritis can be devastating. Feeling blue, sad, grouchy, down in the dumps, or depressed is a symptom that is common for people dealing with ongoing problems like arthritis and chronic pain. These feelings can contribute toward an increased cycle of pain very easily. Chronic pain can lead to depression. Before we can do something about depression, however, we must be able to recognize it.

Symptoms of depression

A person may experience any one or any combination of the following:

  • loss of interest in friends or activities; isolation or withdrawal
  • feeling tired or fatigued; difficulty or changes in sleep patterns
  • increased or decreased appetite; unintentional weight loss or gain
  • loss of interest in personal care or appearance
  • general feeling of unhappiness, crying
  • loss of interest in sex, intimacy
  • suicidal thoughts
  • frequent accidents
  • low self-image, loss of self-esteem
  • frequent arguments or loss of temper
  • feeling tired or fatigued
  • feeling confused, lack of concentration

Dealing with depression

Just as there are many symptoms of depression, there are just as many or more ways to deal with it. For example:
  • Planning ahead for a special event
  • Getting some exercise, like walking or stretching
  • Doing something nice for yourself
  • Doing something nice for someone else
  • Connecting with other people

Enjoying life should be a priority

When we stop engaging in pleasurable activities, our mood worsens and our pain feels more intense. When all of these happen, it becomes increasingly hard to get motivated. Adding some fun to your life is absolutely essential - you should make it a priority. It will help improve your mood, your relationships, and your energy level. Find one activity that you can add to your week on a regular basis and one activity you can add to each day. These can be small things that don’t take much time. Once these become routine, you'll start feeling better and will want to add more.

It’s important to be aware that not all depression can be handled through self-management. Sometimes depression is severe and you may need professional help. If you feel unhappy for more than a few weeks, or think about harming yourself, it is VERY important to talk to your doctor. Severe, clinical depression is a biological illness, and can be treated.

Some medications can cause depression and you should discuss this with your health-care team. It is important to talk to your doctor before you stop taking a medication.