Dealing With Chronic Illnesses and Depression
Symptoms of Depression
People with a chronic illness as well as their family members often overlook the symptoms of depression. They assume that feeling sad is normal for someone struggling with disease. Symptoms of depression are also often masked by other medical problems. The symptoms get treated, but not the underlying depression. When you have both a chronic illness and depression, you need to treat both at the same time.
Depression is treated much the same way for someone who is chronically ill as someone who isn't. Early diagnosis and treatment can ease distress along with the risk of complications and suicide. Many times, depression treatment can improve your overall medical condition, a better quality of life, and a greater likelihood of sticking to a long-term treatment plan.
When depressive symptoms are related to the physical illness or the side effects of medication, your doctor may need to adjust or change your treatment. 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 take effect within a matter of weeks. You should work closely with your doctor or psychiatrist to find the most effective medication.
Tips for Living With a Chronic Illness
Depression, disability, and chronic illness form a vicious cycle. Chronic medical conditions can bring on bouts of depression, which, in turn get in the way of successful treatment of the disease.
Living with a chronic illness is a challenge, and it's normal to feel grief and sadness as you come to grips with your condition and its implications. But if these feelings don't go away, or you are having trouble sleeping or eating, or you've lost interest in the activities you normally enjoy, seek help.
To 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 doctor or therapist about support groups 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 keeping your sense of independence 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 bringing you down, talk to your doctor about other possible treatments.
- Talk with your doctor about pain management.
- As much as is possible, keep doing the things you like to do. You'll stay connected as well as boost your self-confidence and sense of community.
- If you think you're depressed, don't wait to get help. Find a therapist or counselor you trust.