If you live with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you’re likely aware that it doesn’t just take a physical toll.
The physical and emotional effects of the condition can drastically reduce your quality of life. Not only do you experience pain, disabling symptoms, and fatigue, but you’re more prone to stress, low self-esteem, mood swings, and feelings of isolation.
It’s important to understand why this happens and treat symptoms before they get worse. Here’s how PsA and depression are connected, and what you can do to combat the symptoms.
People living with PsA are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those without PsA.
Pain has been known to trigger depression, while anxiety and depression can make pain worse. In addition, poor sleep due to pain can lead to irritability from being so tired, which only leads to more pain, affecting your mental health.
So, you may find yourself in a never-ending cycle that makes managing PsA even more challenging.
There’s also emerging evidence that depression and PsA are more closely linked than previously thought.
Researchers have been looking into the role of cytokines, or proteins, that are released during inflammatory reactions like those that occur in PsA. These proteins can also be found in people with depression.
In one recent study, researchers identified depression as a major risk factor for people with psoriasis who go on to develop PsA. They also found that people with psoriasis who develop depression had a 37 percent increased risk of developing PsA, compared to those without depression.
It’s common to feel sad or anxious when managing a chronic illness. You may worry about the future or struggle to adapt to new limits on what you were once able to do.
But if your feelings of sadness last longer than a couple of weeks, you may have depression. If this happens, you should inform your doctor and explore treatment options.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. It affects people in different ways, but some symptoms include:
- continuous feelings of sadness
- feeling helpless and hopeless
- feeling guilty or having low self-esteem
- anger and irritability
- changes in sleep patterns
- difficulty concentrating
- withdrawing from family and friends
- changes in appetite
- weight loss or gain
- loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- thoughts of death or suicide
Because PsA and depression are closely connected, PsA treatment for the condition shouldn’t only tackle physical symptoms, but address the psychological ones as well.
Treatment for depression usually involves a combination of medication and talk therapy. Antidepressants can help reduce symptoms, especially in severe cases.
Talk therapy is also an effective means to treat depression. A psychologist or other trained mental health professional can oversee and guide you through treatment.
Two of the most common therapies for depression are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a type of therapy where people learn to recognize and manage negative thoughts and behavior that can make their depression worse.
- Interpersonal therapy. This is a form of therapy where people learn to adapt to setbacks and build on their relationships to help them cope with depression.
Stress is a common trigger for PsA flare-ups. Incorporating the following stress-reducing habits into your daily routine can go a long way in helping manage your condition:
- Exercise and meditation. When you exercise, you increase your production of endorphins, chemicals that boost your mood and energy. Try low-impact exercises that are easy on your joints, such as swimming or cycling. Meditation can calm racing thoughts and relieve anxiety.
- Follow a healthy diet. A healthy diet can not only make you feel better physically, but it can also have positive effects on your mental health. Consider avoiding alcohol and smoking as well, as these may make your symptoms worse.
- Find a support network. Develop a circle of close family and friends who are able to help when called on, especially when you’re struggling with fatigue. You can also reach out to others living with PsA on forums and support groups online.
Living with PsA doesn’t mean you also have to accept symptoms of depression. Depression and anxiety can be treated effectively with medication and talk therapy. Recovery may take time, but getting help as soon as possible can greatly improve your quality of life.