Are you one of the 50 million that has some form of arthritis? There are many forms of arthritis including such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia. These and the many other forms of arthritis are the leading cause of disability in the United States. Not only does arthritis affect your joints or your ability to stay fit and healthy, it can also affect your mood. A study done by the Center for Disease Control found that one third of arthritis sufferers ages 45 and older also have symptoms of anxiety and depression and nearly half don’t seek help for these mood disorders.
Arthritis patients that have symptoms of anxiety and depression may experience declining levels of physical function, a decreased ability or willingness to cope with their pain and may also not adhere to their treatment for their arthritis. The CDC was not surprised by the number of patients with arthritis who also suffer from depression. They were surprised the high rates of anxiety which was nearly twice as common. The study found that 84 percent of the patients with symptoms of depression also had symptoms of anxiety.
There is no question that arthritis can lead to physical limitations or lack of confidence in performing everyday tasks and these may lead to feelings of anxiety. This anxiety and depression could translate into an obstacle in making the right lifestyle and physical changes needed to reduce pain and stay fit and healthy.
The study by the CDC also found that patients that had increased levels of anxiety and depression tended to have decreased levels of physical function and independence. The authors stated that “anxiety and depression are underdiagnosed and undertreated in people with arthritis”. The study also encourages doctors to screen their patients for symptoms of both disorders “especially for anxiety”.
From this study we know that people who suffer from arthritis are more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression. The study also found that people with rheumatoid arthritis and depression experience greater levels of pain and the pain is felt in more joints resulting in more visits to their doctor, days spent in bed and a greater risk of death. People with osteoarthritis that have symptoms of anxiety and depression reported a higher intensity of pain than those that don’t also suffer from anxiety and depression.
So what can you do if you are feeling anxious or depressed as a result of dealing with arthritis? First, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. He or she may prescribe medications, counseling or lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend strength training and aerobic exercise. Both are essential to stay fit and healthy as well as mental wellbeing. If you feel that you can’t participate in moderate physical exercise, there are several community based programs that may be available to you such as; the “Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program”, www.arthritis.org/exercise.php or “Enhance Fitness”, www.projectenhance.org/Enhance Fitness.aspx.
Self-managed education programs may also help you. The CDC recommends two programs that may help improve your quality of life; “Arthritis Self-Management Program”, www.arthritis.org/chaptermap.php and “Chronic Disease Self-Management Program”, www.patienteducation.stanford.edu/programs/cdsmp.html.
For many of us, arthritis is a continual reminder that our bodies are getting older. How we choose to deal with the pain or changes in our lifestyle is up to us. We can give in and let anxiety and depression take us down or we can seek help and take control and not let arthritis rule our lives.