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Why Mental Health and Chronic Illness are connected:
Fighting a Chronic Illness is hard work! It doesn’t matter if your battle is against Lupus, MS, ME/CFS, Chronic Migraine, fibromyalgia…the list could go on and on. The honest truth is that the battles are real, the battles are life-altering and the battles are not easy and can have long term effects on your mental health.
The never ending onslaught of treatments, sickness, isolation and stigmas surrounding chronic illness can lead to severe depression and other mental health issues. I personally think that the medical community misses the mark in this area by a mile! The depression caused by the stress of chronic illness is treated like it is a sign of weakness and the exact opposite is true.
It is very easy to become so isolated that you quit trying to socialize or friends disappear because they are not sure what to do. It is easy to become discouraged by failed treatments and medication side effects that are sometimes worse than the illness.
Since having a chronic illness can lead to depression, it is very important to know the signs so you can recognize them and seek treatment.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “The health effects of depression go beyond mood—depression is a serious medical illness with many symptoms, including physical ones.”
Some symptoms of depression are:
- Feeling sad, irritable, or anxious
- Feeling empty, hopeless, guilty, or worthless
- Loss of pleasure in usually-enjoyed hobbies or activities, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy, feeling listless
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much. Waking too early
- Eating too much or not wanting to eat at all, unplanned weight gain or loss
- Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
You may notice that a few of these signs are exactly the same as the symptoms of your chronic illness. This is one of the reasons it is so difficult to diagnose and treat depression within the chronic illness community.
I urge you to take note of your mental state on a regular basis. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others…reach out for help at a local emergency room, mental health clinic or your doctor. Do not give up!