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Lupus and Depression: It’s Not Just Sadness
Those who struggle with lupus often experience overbearing symptoms of depression, which are usually tied to flares, and leave during remissions. Nevertheless, some of these symptoms can often remain even past the flare periods, and become a part of the patient’s daily life. In these cases, constant attention to these symptoms is vital when determining the possibility of depression due to the severity of lupus symptoms.
Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, is a mental disorder in which the patient experiences irritable or depressed moods, alongside decreased energy and motivation, and whose presence extends past 8 weeks (or two months). One of the most obvious signs of depression is when the person suddenly loses all interest in activities that once gave them joy with no apparent reason as to why. When experienced alongside lupus, these symptoms are rarely directly related to the disease, and appear mostly due to the side effects of lupus medication, along with the stress of the patient’s daily life.
Regardless of the cause, those who suffer from lupus must always keep a close eye on the following signs and symptoms, in order to predict and identify a possible depressive disorder:
- Feelings of impotence and helplessness, along with hopelessness
- Sad moods that extend to most days
- Frequent bouts of crying, possibly with no apparent reason
- Insomnia, as well as excessive sleep
- Weight loss or weight gain due to changes in appetite
- Feelings of overbearing anxiety
- Negative self-image or self-esteem
- Constant indecisiveness
- Diminished interest in activities that the person used to enjoy
- Lack of motivation, manifested because of excessive fatigue
- Lethargic when performing certain activities
- Diminished libido and sexual performance
- Recurring thoughts of death and suicide
The problem with chronic illnesses like lupus is not solely limited to the symptoms they produce. The stress they put on the person’s daily life can act as the pivotal point for mental disorder and, should the person fail to seek aid, or address these issues in any way, can be the source of much distress and further illness. For most lupus patients, these symptoms can be a source of weakness and shame; a burden on themselves and on their caregivers, on top of their existing condition. For this reason, some may be reluctant to seek aid. However, these diseases are nothing to be embarrassed about, especially when considering their long-term effects if they are left untreated.
Those who are struggling with both lupus and depression might find the following tips useful. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. What may work for someone, may not work for someone else
Seeking psychological aid
Few professionals know depression better than a psychologist or, for major depressive disorders, a psychiatrist (since the latter can prescribe medication to support the psychological treatment). These individuals are trained specifically to tackle these types of disorders and will often know the best ways to provide some relief to patients, whether it be through the use of talk therapy and anti-depressants.
Try to work out
Lupus can really take a toll on the patient’s physical abilities. However, if the person is able to move around, it would be wise for them to partake in light physical activity, such as working in the garden, taking a walk around the block, or joining in on a yoga session. The endorphins secreted by the body after working out can help to improve the person’s mood and provide some pain relief.
Getting enough sleep
Even in someone who is healthy, a lack of sleep can cause a number of serious health issues. Now, imagine that but with an underlying lupus diagnosis to further complicate matters. Those who suffer from lupus will vastly benefit from having healthy sleeping habits, such as resting for at least 7 hours every night, avoiding caffeinated beverages in the evenings, having a good mattress to provide support to the back and spine, and sleeping in total darkness with the right room temperature.
Rely on others
Lupus can often be a tough nut to crack, and even more so if the person believes they are alone and can’t rely on anyone. Luckily, this is rarely the case. A person suffering from lupus can frequently find relief in friends and family, as well as other lupus patients who can lean on each other when the going gets rough. If friends and family are not available, then the person can consider finding aid in a local lupus support group, or other focus groups dedicated to addressing patients with chronic illnesses.
Accept the condition
Lupus is a lifelong condition, and nothing the patient can say or do will change that fact (at least, for now). For this reason, the patient will have to accept this fact in order to learn to coexist with the disease. A good place to start would be by changing his or her self-talk for more positive words. Through the power of positive self-talk, the person can slowly change their perception of the disease from negative to something they simply have to live with. Furthermore, patients shouldn’t be ashamed of seeking aid in tasks they wouldn’t be able to perform due to their physical limitations; they would definitely benefit immensely in learning to ask for help, as well as from learning how to graciously accept assistance.
A further understanding of lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease characterized by the immune system creating antibodies that target and attack the body’s own structures. Nearly every and all bodily structures are liable to be a target, giving the disease its systemic and unpredictable nature. For these reasons, no two cases of lupus are completely alike, as it has many, many ways in which a person can be affected. Fortunately, those who suffer from the disease rarely have to deal with symptoms on a daily basis. Instead, lupus patients suffer from what they call ‘flares’, which are periods in which the symptoms are exacerbated and can cause significant discomfort. On the other hand, when cared for properly (and with a bit of luck), patients spend most of their time in ‘remission’ phases, during which the symptoms are not present or greatly reduced in intensity.
By itself, lupus is a chronic and systemic illness that can wreak havoc if left unchecked. However, recent discoveries have shed light on its effects on the subject’s mental health, as the disease has been linked to several mental disorders, including playing a pivotal role in the onset of major depressive disorder. Those who are struggling with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) have to closely monitor their own mental health, and keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of mental disorders, especially depression