For millions of people, chronic illnesses and depression are facts of life. A chronic illness is a condition that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely, although some illnesses can be controlled through diet, exercise, and certain medications. Examples of chronic illnesses include diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.
Many people with chronic illness experience depression. In fact, depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness. It is estimated that up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition experience symptoms of depression.
While some people look forward to the brisk days of fall and winter,
anticipating family dinners and cozy nights by the fire, others dread the
cooler temperatures and shorter days.
If history repeats, they know that the winter season will bring, like
clockwork, worsening symptoms of depression.
Up to 3% of the population in the U.S. may suffer from winter depression,
which experts term seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
Some of the 6.7% Americans who suffer depression year-round find...
It is not hard to identify the cause and effect relationship between chronic illness and depression. Serious illness can cause tremendous changes in lifestyle, and limit an individual’s mobility and independence. Chronic illness may make it impossible to pursue the activities one enjoys and can undermine self-confidence and a sense of hope in the future. It is not surprising, then, that people with chronic illness often experience a certain amount of despair and sadness. In some cases, the physical effects of the illness itself or side effects of medication may also lead to depression.
Chronic Illness and Depression: What Chronic Conditions Trigger Depression?
Although any illness can trigger depressed feelings, the risk of chronic illness and depression increases with the severity of the illness and the level of life disruption it causes. The risk of getting depression is generally 10-25% for women and 5-12% for men. However, those with chronic illnesses face a much higher risk -- between 25-33%.
Depression caused by chronic disease often aggravates the condition, especially if the illness causes pain and fatigue, or limits a person’s ability to interact with others. Depression can intensify pain, as well as fatigue and sluggishness. The combination of chronic illness and depression also can cause people to isolate themselves, which is likely to exacerbate the depression.
Research on chronic illnesses and depression indicates that depression rates are high among patients with chronic conditions:
Chronic Illness and Depression: What Are the Symptoms?
In people with chronic illnesses and depression, patients themselves and their family members often overlook the symptoms of depression assuming that feeling sad is normal for someone struggling with disease. Symptoms of depression are also frequently masked by other medical problems, resulting in treatment for the symptoms -- but not the underlying depression. When both chronic illnesses and depression are present, it is extremely important to treat both at the same time.