You’ve been diagnosed with arthritis and whether you were expecting it or not, it can be devastating. Learning you have a chronic illness of any sort could send your emotions into a spiral of anger and depression.
According to Arthritis Australia, up to two-thirds of people with arthritis say that their condition has affected them emotionally. Also, people living with persistent pain are 4 times more likely to experience anxiety or depression than people living without pain.
Some of the symptoms of depression include feeling sad or down most of the time, a loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, feeling helpless and alone, mood swings, tiredness, problems sleeping and lack of appetite.
Many of those newly diagnosed with arthritis may feel a sense of losing the future that they had been planning and the realisation that life plans may now have to be changed.
It is fairly common for those diagnosed with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis to fear the future, for example, possibly having to face up to life in a wheelchair and imagining how that may impact upon family life or career.
In some cases, people who have been newly diagnosed may have a fear of the medications they have to take and what impact they will have on their lives.
Every chronic illness involves loss: in the case of arthritis, the loss of activities we once enjoyed, or our self-image. We often feel we are who we are because of the things we do and can do. This image of ourselves now has to change and, often, we don’t know to what, or how to go about it.
Many people find that talking to someone who has been through similar fears and has similar experience with arthritis can help. Local arthritis support groups may be able to help.
If you think you might have depression, you should seek help from a doctor or other health professional as soon as possible. Depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness. Depression and arthritis are both treatable conditions, and a coordinated approach to treatment can have benefits for both conditions.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, many thousands of people with arthritis have travelled that road and many even believe that their lives are better. Don’t forget that there are resources out there for you to lean on, such as Arthritis Australia and your doctor, and don’t be afraid, or too proud, to ask for help.
|If you have feelings of wanting to harm yourself or of suicide, please contact a doctor, mental health professional or telephone helpline immediately.
Last Reviewed: 16 August 2009