Lupus and Depression: 11 Ways to Help You Cope

From the WebMD Archives

If you have lupus, it’s normal to feel sad or down sometimes. After all, lupus may force you to make big adjustments in your life. Lupus can put a strain on your personal relationships, and make it hard to do some of the things you enjoy. All this can take a toll on you emotionally. But feelings of sadness or depression that last more than a few weeks should be evaluated and treated.

People with a chronic illness such as lupus are at higher risk of depression. Studies show that as many as 60% of people with a chronic illness will have depression at some point in their lives.

But don’t try to diagnose yourself. Some symptoms of lupus -- loss of energy, difficulty sleeping, fatigue -- can mimic the symptoms of depression. See a doctor, and work together to deal with depression.

Here are 11 steps you can take if you have lupus and think you may have depression.

1. Talk With Your Doctor About Depression and Lupus

Your doctor can assess, diagnose, and help you decide what kind of treatment is best. In most cases, your doctor will suggest a combination of psychotherapy and an antidepressant medication. “Some people find they need an antidepressant to help get them out of a rut,” says Helen Grusd, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and past president of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association. “Then once they’re feeling better, they can start to do other things on their own to help ease the depression.”

2. Aim for Acceptance of Your Lupus Diagnosis

“When you are first diagnosed with lupus, it’s natural to move through the stages of grief, from denial to anger and depression,” says Grusd. These are all normal feelings. But the key is to not stay too long in any of these stages. Instead, try to move toward acceptance. “Accepting that you have lupus and then moving on with your life can help with depression,” says Grusd. This may mean setting new life goals for yourself and finding new things you can do that you enjoy.

“I was used to being very active, but with lupus this just wasn’t possible. I had to slow down,” says Ann S. Utterback, PhD, a broadcast voice specialist in Virginia who was diagnosed with lupus in 2006. “It was a real challenge, but I decided to use the time to do something fun for myself. So I read all the classics I had never gotten around to reading before.”