How Lupus Can Affect Mental Health
There is no denying that living with lupus is challenging. No matter what stage of the disease you have, the effects on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being can be profound.
As a lupus patient, you’ve likely experienced mental and physical problems. These difficulties can arise from a combination of the disease process, which commonly affects the brain and the general effects of living with a chronic disease.
Symptoms and severity can vary but generally include depression, anxiety, grief, low mood, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, pain, and sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Some patients experience other more severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as visual and auditory hallucinations, delirium, and paranoid episodes (feelings of persecution). These distressed mental states can be brief, lasting only a few hours or days before subsiding. Yet they can have vast repercussions on your quality of life.
Watch the Video: How Lupus Can Affect Mental Health
Facts About Lupus and Mental Health
You are not alone if you’ve ever felt mentally and emotionally overwhelmed by your disease. The Lupus Research Alliance estimates that
- Neuropsychiatric lupus affects 80-90% of patients
- 25% of lupus patients experience severe depression
- 37% of lupus patients experience anxiety
Steps You Can Take to Help You Cope with Lupus-Related Mental Health Issues
Speak to Your Doctor About Adjusting or Changing Your Medications
In high doses, steroids may cause severe symptoms such as depression, psychosis, and mania, as well as other less severe symptoms like headaches, mood swings, and poor concentration.
If your disease management includes steroids and you are experiencing mental health problems, please speak to your doctor. Together you can determine if adding a biologic can help.
Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough quality sleep, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking can help boost your immune system and lower stress levels.
Learn Stress Management Techniques
Living with a chronic disease adds more stress to your life. Learning how to manage it will help reduce your risk of depression and anxiety.
Try meditating, listening to soothing music, or taking a walk in nature to relax when you are feeling overwhelmed.
If you are experiencing severe stress and anxiety, you can seek help from a mental health professional who can help you deal with your episodes and teach you advanced stress management techniques, such as guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.
First and foremost, you should build your relationship with your healthcare team and keep them up to date with any new or worsening mental health issues you experience. Your doctor can help determine if your symptoms are related to your medications or if they directly result from your disease progression. Either way, they can prescribe medications to help you manage your mental and emotional symptoms.
Additionally, it’s crucial to have the support of friends and family, and other patients going through similar situations. Ask your healthcare team if they can recommend a local patient support group you can join.
Living with lupus is difficult, but with proper care and support, you can learn to manage your physical and mental well-being.