Depression is a common problem that affects people of all ages, genders, and races. But for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the combination of chronic pain and limited mobility can make depression a particularly difficult issue to deal with.
That unrivaled burden can lead to a chronic, low-grade depression that’s hard to recognize and even harder to treat. But you can take steps to improve your well-being and overcome the depression that comes with RA. Yes, your journey to recovery will most certainly be a difficult one, but with the right attitude, some self-help techniques, and a little bit of support, you can transform your life for the better.
And to assist you in your never-ending endeavor to create a better, more fulfilling life for yourself, we’ve compiled a list of 5 proven tips for managing depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Understanding The Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis & Depression
Before we indulge you in our list of 5 tips for managing depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important that you understand why your RA might be causing depression in the first place. Although depression is a complex mental health disorder, according to a study published in 2011 in National Center for Biotechnology Information, as many as 42% (13%–42%)  of patients with RA will develop clinical depression at some point during their disease. The reason for that high percentage is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including stress and chronic pain. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with both RA and depression, don’t assume that one condition causes or leads to another. Instead, focus on treating each problem individually so that you can live a more fulfilling life overall.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how your RA may be causing you depression:
1. Knowing RA Is Chronic
The very understanding that you have a chronic condition that’s not going away anytime soon can be depressing in and of itself. After all, when you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, it’s normal to feel like your life is over—or at least severely limited—and that’s an extremely difficult mindset to overcome.
2. Feeling Helpless & Inadequate
Because your symptoms are beyond your control, it’s easy to develop feelings of helplessness and inadequacy about your condition as well as yourself as a person in general.
3. Pain That Can Only Be Controlled
Unlike most other chronic illnesses, RA is a condition that’s characterized by severe pain that can only be controlled, not cured. And while medications and other treatments can reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life, they can’t cure you—which means you’ll have to live with pain for as long as you have RA.
4. Pain Leads to Depression
If you have RA, you know that chronic pain can be extremely debilitating and depressing. In fact, according to a report published on WebMD , people with RA have 4 times more risk of developing depression than those without RA. That’s because when your body is in constant pain, it’s difficult to feel happy or optimistic about your future—and if you’re not feeling positive emotions, it’s more likely that you’ll develop depression.
How To Manage Depression Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Now that you have an understanding of what causes depression in those who suffer from RA, let’s get down to business!
1. Focus on the Positive
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to remember that while you’re dealing with a debilitating disease, there are still plenty of things in your life to be happy about. Take time each day to appreciate what you have and make an effort to find something new and exciting every day (like going for a walk or meeting up with friends). Remember, depression is typically caused by focusing too much on negative aspects of your life and not enough on positive ones. So, if you can refocus your attention onto all of those wonderful things in your life, then you’ll be well on your way to defeating RA-induced depression. From the people who love you to your favorite hobby, try to identify at least one thing every day that brings you joy. And when you do, don’t forget to give yourself credit—you deserve it!
2 Stick to a Healthy Diet
If you have RA, you’re probably already aware of how important it is to maintain a healthy diet. That’s because eating foods that are high in fiber and low in fat can help control your weight and reduce inflammation. And while maintaining a balanced diet is important for everyone, it’s especially crucial for those with RA since some medications can increase your risk of heart disease. So, if you want to get rid of depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis, then start by incorporating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products into your daily routine. Not only will they improve your overall health and mood, but they’ll also help lower your risk of developing other diseases that come with RA.
3. Pursue Activities You Enjoy
If you have RA, then you know that it’s not easy to get out and do things—but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying! If there are activities you enjoy, like going for a walk or watching your favorite TV show, then make an effort to do them on a regular basis. The more often you get out of bed and leave your house, the better you’ll feel about yourself—and if you’re feeling good about yourself, then it’s easier to fight off depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Remember, just because your body is in pain doesn’t mean that your life has to be too!
4. Join a Support Group
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, then it’s time to reach out and make some new friends! One of the best ways to do that is by joining a support group for people with RA—and if you can’t find one in your area, then try reaching out to others online (via social media or message boards). The more you connect with others who are going through similar experiences, the better you’ll feel about yourself and your condition—and that will help you stay on top of depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
5 Seek Professional Help
If your depression doesn’t improve after trying these strategies for at least 2 weeks, then it’s time to seek professional help from a licensed mental health counselor or therapist. RA coach with their decades of experience in dealing with people who have RA and other chronic illnesses can be invaluable resources when it comes to treating depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis. So, if you’re feeling down, don’t hesitate to reach out—you deserve some relief!
6. Get Your RA Symptoms Under Control
YUP, if there’s one thing that can help you get rid of depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis, it’s getting your symptoms under control! Since depression is often caused by feeling out of control and helpless, getting your symptoms under control will help you feel more confident and in charge—and that will make it easier to manage depression caused by rheumatoid arthritis.