Lupus and Depression
Last updated: September 2022
Everyone knows the feeling of being sad, disappointed, or stressed. These feelings are normal, especially after a negative experience like a falling out with a family member or the loss of a friend. But for some people, these feelings can stretch beyond days to weeks, months, and even years. This is called depression.
What does depression feel like?
Depression can feel like a year of rainy days with no sun peeking through the clouds. It can feel like a wet blanket dousing any spark of enjoyment or excitement in your life. Depression can feel like a long walk through a dark tunnel with no end in sight.
According to the CDC, if you’re experiencing the following symptoms, you should speak to your doctor about depression:1
- Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
- Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
- Feeling irritable‚ easily frustrated‚ or restless
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Waking up too early or sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
- Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself
There are several causes of depression in lupus. Adjusting to life with chronic pain or fatigue can lead to feelings of depression. Especially when you’re young, it’s deeply frustrating to deal with pain and exhaustion while navigating a medical industry that doesn’t always seem to listen to young people in pain. When all your friends are staying out late, dating, and excelling at their careers, it can be deeply hurtful to feel as if you’re being left behind.
You might also experience depression if you don’t have an adequate emotional support system. Most newly diagnosed lupus patients don’t look sick. This can lead to skepticism from friends, family, and even medical professionals. When you’re struggling to adjust to the new limitations that a chronic illness places on your life, not being supported by people you trust can be deeply wounding. The feelings of rejection, distrust, and pain you may experience are real and valid. You deserve to be loved, believed in, and supported.
Lupus and depression
Certain medications used to treat lupus can also cause depression. If you experience feelings of depression after starting a new medication, contact your doctor. Never stop or start a medication without consulting your doctor first.
Depression isn’t just a feeling. Depression is linked to and can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. A chemical called serotonin affects a person’s mood. Lower levels of this hormone are correlated with depression.2
Fortunately, depression is treatable. Some doctors might prescribe SSRIs, also known as antidepressants, to restore your brain chemistry to normal levels. Many lupus patients also benefit from talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional. Talk to your doctor about how best to treat your depression. If you are afraid you might hurt yourself, contact the National Suicide & Crisis Hotline by dialing 988 or visiting 988lifeline.org.
If you’re feeling depressed, remember that you’re not alone. Millions of people live with this medical condition every day. You have people in your life who care about you, and the world is a better place because you’re in it. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend, and speak to your doctor about treatment. You deserve to be happy and well.
How are you most likely to respond when someone offers you unsolicited advice about your lupus?