Caring for your emotional symptoms is an important part of arthritis care.
When you feel down or worry excessively, you may feel too overwhelmed to properly care for your arthritis or your emotional health. But pain, mental health and disability are strongly linked, so not recognising or treating one can impact the others greatly.
For example, having depression may mean you don’t have the will or energy to exercise, which can lead to muscle deconditioning and reduced ability to function. On the other hand, having a lot of pain and inflammation may make it harder to exercise and cause you to be depressed or anxious. This can create a vicious cycle where you can develop a pain-centred life where pain influences all aspects of your life such as disrupting your sleep, daily activity, social interactions, treatment adherence and self-care.
Feeling down in the dumps sometimes is part of life. One day you're out of sorts and your spirits are low; the next day you're back in the groove. But if these low feelings last for two or more weeks, you may be clinically depressed. You should speak with your GP if you have any of these symptoms of depression:
Instead of feeling low and with no energy, maybe you feel restless and full of worry and distress. Some people respond to chronic illness and stress with anxiety rather than depression. You should speak with your GP if you have any of these symptoms of anxiety especially if your symptoms are uncontrollable or interfere with your daily life:
If you have anxiety or depression, you have many treatment options available, from medications to psychological treatments to deep relaxation. Having a collaborative health care team is vital to success. You need to treat the inflammation and pain of your arthritis, because we know they contribute to your mental health. Make sure your rheumatologist and mental health specialist are coordinating your treatment so potential drug interactions can be avoided.
In 'talking therapy' or counselling, you work with a therapist to reduce your anxiety or depression. Examples include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy. CBT is one of the common treatments. It focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Which type of therapy works best for you will depend on your symptoms, personality and preferences.
Several types of medicine are used to treat anxiety and depression. Talk with your doctor about benefits, risks, possible side effects and how these may interact with other medicines you take.
A number of remedies and self-care options can help ease your symptoms, especially when used in conjunction with psychotherapy or medication. Follow the links to learn more about each option.
This resource has been developed based on the best available evidence. A full list of references is available upon request.