Arthritis affects the joints and muscles of the body and can affect people at different ages and stages of their life. It limits a person’s mobility and creates an emotional toll from losing the ability of fully participating in the things once enjoyed. It is this aspect of the illness that can cause another problem and is one of the hardest to deal with — depression. At times putting feelings of loss and hopelessness into words is difficult, and having others understand what you are going through can be one of the greatest challenges.
Recently, a patient spoke to me of the emotional roller-coaster ride this illness was taking on him. Not only was the pain intolerable at times, but he stated he was becoming very depressed because of it, causing him to dwell more on his illness and what he could no longer do. When he was speaking to me, I thought of the problems my grandfather had to face with his rheumatoid arthritis. As far as I could see as a child, it only affected his knees causing him to walk with a cane. Some days he was fine, but on others he was downright miserable and I would try to help him as best as a child could. Yet now that I am older and thinking of what my patient was telling me, I wondered how much more the pain had affected my grandfather’s mood, and if he too was somehow suffering with depression. For my patient, he is about to start going to a pain clinic, and is also thinking about counseling to help with the feeling of helplessness and loss he sometimes encounters.
Studies have now shown that treating depression can very well help with the symptoms and problems with arthritis. Whether a person is treated with medication or psychotherapy, it not only helps with the symptoms of depression, but also the symptoms of arthritis. By treating one issue can help with the other. Is this something you or someone you know has had to deal with? And if so, was there a treatment that helped? Share with us your stories, and be well.
One of the most challenging aspect of this scenario is when the person struggling with arthritis is not taken seriously by friends and family. It’s those moments when people close to you walk too fast or challenge you to negotiate a flight of subway stairs, giving you that “it’s just arthritis smirk”.— Richard Rothstein / November 8th, 2011 at 5:58 am
That is so true. The pain is real, and the inability to do what you were once able to do with ease is so frustrating. Making a person feel inadequate or even “guilty” contributes to the depressive feelings. It then becomes a vicious circle – you don’t go out because you don’t want to deal with those “smirks”, and inactivity only makes the symptoms worse. Better understanding and compassion is a remedy we need to strive for.— Paula / November 11th, 2011 at 6:39 pm