Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression
Chronic Illness and Depression: Treatment Options
Treatment of depression in chronically ill patients is similar to treatment of depression in other people. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce distress as well as the risk of complications and suicide for those with chronic illness and depression. In many patients, depression treatment can produce an improvement in the patient’s overall medical condition, a better quality of life, and a greater likelihood of sticking to a long-term treatment plan.
If the depressive symptoms are related to the physical illness or the side effects of medication, treatment may need to be adjusted or changed. When the depression is a separate problem, it can be treated on its own. More than 80% of people with depression can be treated successfully with medicine, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Antidepressant drugs usually begin to have a positive effect within a matter of weeks. It is important to work closely with a physician or psychiatrist to find the most effective medication.
Tips for Coping With Chronic Illnesses and Depression
Depression, disability, and chronic illness form a vicious cycle. Chronic medical conditions can bring on bouts of depression, which, in turn interfere with successful treatment of the disease.
Living with a chronic illness is a tremendous challenge, and periods of grief and sadness are to be expected as you come to grips with your condition and its implications. But if you find that your depression persists or that you are having trouble sleeping or eating or have lost interest in the activities you normally enjoy, it is important to seek help.
Some tips to help you cope with chronic illness and avoid depression:
- Try not to isolate yourself. Reach out to family and friends. If you don’t have a solid support system, take steps to build one. Ask your physician or therapist for referrals to a support group and other community resources.
- Learn as much as you can about your condition. Knowledge is power when it comes to getting the best treatment available and maintaining a sense of autonomy and control.
- Make sure that you have medical support from experts you trust and can talk to openly about your ongoing questions and concerns.
- If you suspect that your medication is causing you to be depressed, consult your doctor about alternative treatments.
- If you are in chronic pain, talk with your physician about alternative pain management.
- As much as is possible, remain engaged in the activities you enjoy. Doing so will keep you connected as well as boost your self-confidence and sense of community.
- If you become depressed, don’t wait too long before seeking help. Find a therapist or counselor whom you trust.