Lupus causes both physical and emotional stress, with depression affecting 15 to 60 percent of people with the condition. Sometimes lupus medications and lupus flares can impact your mood and disrupt many aspects of your life, including your career, relationships, social life and self esteem. Signs of depression include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, trouble concentrating, changes in your sleep and eating patterns, mood changes and losing interest in things that you used to enjoy. It is important to not only take care of your lupus, but to also know the warning signs of depression and get help when needed.
1. Get to know yourself. Lupus and depression and its symptoms can affect everyone differently. Learn about your body and mood patterns and identify positive coping strategies to help better manage your depression.
2. Talk with your rheumatologist and healthcare professionals. Communicating with your doctor about your physical symptoms as well as your psychological and emotional well-being will help your doctor get to know you as a whole person. As part of your care, social workers are available to provide supportive counseling and connect you with resources.
3. Build a support network. Families and friends can be an important source of support, especially when you are not at your best. Communicate your needs to them. Additionally, peer to peer support groups can provide encouragement and offer you a chance to share and learn from others with lupus. To learn more about Department of Social Work Programs lupus support and education programs, visit https://hss.edu/lupus-programs.asp
4. Keep active. Studies have shown that exercise can be a natural anti-depressant. Physical activity such as walking or yoga can help to ease tension and promote relaxation. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and gradually build it into your week.
5. Seek mental health counseling. Talk therapy has been proven to be very beneficial in helping people through difficult challenges such as coping with a chronic illness. A professional can work with you to understand your thoughts, feelings and behaviors and can help you cope with stressors in your life. If you’re ready to start therapy, consult with your healthcare providers and research the type of therapy that is right for you.
6. Take medications, if needed. For some people coping with depression, anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety medications can be helpful. Talk with your healthcare provider to get a referral to a psychiatrist, or you can also find one through your insurance plan. It is important to discuss your psychiatric medications with your rheumatologist.
7. Avoid excessive alcohol use. While many people think drinking alcohol will improve their mood, alcohol and other substances actually increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you find yourself relying on alcohol or other substances to feel better, you should talk with your doctor or mental health professional about more effective ways to improve your mood.
*Updated by Eugene Tomkiel, Social Work Manager