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Lupus and Anxiety: Definition, Cause, and Impact On Lupus

Research shows that 37 percent of people living with lupus will also deal with anxiety.1. It is felt that this is due to the amount of stress that comes with living with a chronic health condition. But the 2 conditions have somewhat of a difficult relationship. Having lupus can cause a person to develop anxiety, and anxiety can worsen the symptoms of lupus. Or even cause a flare-up. But what is anxiety? What causes anxiety? Can anxiety make your lupus worse?

What is anxiety?

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion that is characterized by worrying thoughts, feelings of tension, and physical manifestations like increased blood pressure.

People who have anxiety often have intrusive thoughts or concerns/worries that are recurring. These kinds of thoughts often pop into your head without warning and can happen at any time. In many cases, these thoughts are repetitive and may pop into your head all day, at any time, no matter how hard you try not to think about them.

These thoughts may be distressing or disturbing. An example of intrusive thought would be worrying about what may happen to your health. Thinking about developing severe symptoms like CNS Lupus or severe kidney disease and what may happen 10 years down the road. While worrying is something that all people do. But those living with chronic health issues, like lupus, often worry more because there is just so much to worry about.

What causes anxiety?

It is often hard to pinpoint the exact cause of someone’s anxiety. But as mentioned above, research has found that people who have lupus also have a high likelihood of developing anxiety and other mental health issues.1 The common factor among those who were studied was chronic stress.

When living with any chronic condition the levels of stress and worry are often quite high due to the everchanging issues that come with said condition. The fact that lupus symptoms often fluctuate often increases the worry and stress that we deal with. Being in a constant state of stress makes it so the part of the brain responsible for our emotions and our body’s response to stress has a hard time shutting down.

A study completed in 2009 looked at 326 caucasian women who had SLE. They found that nearly 65 percent of those women showed symptoms of anxiety and depression. The same study also showed that many of those living with lupus also live with other mental health issues. Like major depressive disorder, panic disorder, bipolar 1 disorder, social phobias, and others.2 Researchers have also found a direct link between the severity of one’s anxiety and the severity of fatigue and pain.1

Anxiety can unfortunately also be a side effect of a medication. Including some medications that are commonly used for treating lupus. The following are a few of the medications that can cause anxiety as a side effect.

  • Asprin
  • Tylenol
  • Prednisone or steroids

If you are taking any of these medications and dealing with anxiety, please make sure that you make your medical team aware.

Can being anxious make my lupus worse?

In short… no one knows for sure due to the fact that there has not been much research done explicitly on anxiety and inflammation. However, research has been done on inflammation and depression, which has proven there is a potential link. They have found that anxiety is often associated with the risk of heart disease, atherosclerosis, and metabolic disorders.3

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