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Depression and Arthritis.

Conquering Depression Associated With Arthritis – Psychological Toll of Arthritis Linked to Depression

By Carol Eustice, About.com Guide

Updated June 07, 2011

Physical damage caused by chronic arthritis is mostly visible, but the psychological toll may not be as apparent. Chronic arthritis affects both mind and body. To some degree, the psychological impact of arthritis can be influenced by your coping skills and attitude.

Reacting to Loss

Arthritis is a disease which exemplifies the full impact of chronic illness, both physically and psychologically. Arthritis is a progressive disease which can lead to increased physical limitation and eventual loss of ability. How fast loss occurs depends on the severity of your disease. As you become more disabled, all aspects of your life become involved — and there may be emotional upheaval.

Arthritis pain can be draining — it can drain your energy and cause fatigue and exhaustion. Normal daily activities can become burdensome and leisure activities can turn into unenjoyable encounters. The impact of arthritis on your lifestyle may surprise you.

Athletes may be forced to become spectators, career-oriented people may become unable to work, sociable people may retreat into isolation, and independent people may be forced to become more dependent on others.

How you react to change and transition may determine if you will become depressed and how long depression will last. A certain amount of feeling down or blue is a normal reaction to loss. When depression lasts for long periods and interferes with normal life, professional help should be considered.

Fearing the Future

There will be ups and downs with arthritis, good days and bad days. The course the disease will be uncertain. The uncertainty and unpredictability can lead to fear. Fearing the future and the unknown are part of this emotional cycle.

From the time of the initial diagnosis, questions will pop into your mind: What will the future hold? Will I need a wheelchair? Will I become crippled?

As time goes on some questions get answered, while other questions develop. The fear of increased pain, fear of increased disability, fear of new treatments, fear of how family and friends will react, and fear of financial loss are all legitimate concerns. How you confront your fear can influence your emotional response to illness.

Managing Depression

One way of managing depressive feelings can involve altering negative thoughts and demonstrating positive actions.

Gather the Facts

Becoming knowledgeable about arthritis can help you control your fear of the unknown. Dealing with reality, rather than distorted thoughts, and accepting accurate perceptions and objective opinions should help thwart feelings of depression. Don’t make things worse by imagining the worst. Face reality as it occurs.

Avoid Isolation

Arthritis and depression, together, may lead to feelings of worthlessness and a lack of confidence. Low stamina and strength, in combination with lacking confidence, might make you want to avoid family and friends, choosing isolation instead. It is important to maintain contact with other people and draw energy from their support and understanding. Approachability is key to developing and maintaining friendships and family bonds. Remain open to people who accept you along with your limitations.

Pursue Enjoyment

Despite your physical limitations, there are still activities you find enjoyable. It is imperative for your psychological and physical health that you continue to pursue activities which bring satisfaction and happiness to you. Though your life has been altered because of chronic illness, your life can still be delightful. Enjoyment can be a diversion from depression. If your mind is occupied with pleasure there is less room for negativity.

Focus on Today

Focusing on what needs to be done on a particular day and what is happening around you channels your thoughts into the present. Taking control of chores you can do, finishing tasks you are able to perform, caring for yourself, and concentrating on a goal for a particular day keeps your mind engaged with healthy thoughts and activity.

Improve Self-Esteem

Depressed feelings often result from low self-esteem. Make it your intention to do things that make you feel good about yourself. Dress in clothes that make you feel attractive. Wear make-up or get a haircut to improve your feelings about your appearance. Set realistic goals and achieve them. Helping others is a powerful way of developing feelings of worthiness. Make it a point to recognize the positive aspects about yourself.

Get Help

Everyone can experience periods of depresses mood in their lives. It is a medical problem, however, if it impacts your life day after day and impacts your ability to function.

Symptoms of a major depressive disorder may include:

  • Feeling extremely sad, anxious, or empty
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless
  • Having thoughts of suicide or death
  • An increase or decrease in the need for sleep
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • Changes in appetite leading to weight loss or gain

If you have a number of these symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day for two or more weeks, you may have a major depressive disorder and should seek professional help.


Depression. The Cleveland Clinic Health Information.