Lupus and Mental Health Concerns
Mental Effects of the Lupus Disease Process
Sometimes the mental and emotional effects of lupus can be related to the disease process itself or medications used to treat it. Common problems that may be associated with the disease include:
Cognitive dysfunction. Many people with lupus experience a variety of related problems including forgetfulness or difficulty thinking. They may describe these problems as feeling “fuzzy-headed” or being in a “lupus fog.” These problems often coincide with periods of increased disease activity, or flares. But cognitive problems can also be symptoms of depression.
Depression and anxiety. These can occur as a psychological reaction to having lupus or a side effect of treatment. They may also occur as a direct result of the disease process. Often it is difficult for doctors to sort out the actual cause.
Mood swings and personality changes. People with lupus may experience unpredictable changes in moods and personality traits. This can include feeling of anger and irritability. These may be related to the disease process or, in some cases, the use of corticosteroid medications.
Getting Help for the Emotional Effects of Lupus
If you are experiencing any of these problems, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor. Your doctor can help you find solutions. These may include a change in medication to control your lupus. Or, the doctor may add medications to treat problems like anxiety and depression.
Your doctor may also refer you to a mental health professional, who will be able to help you identify additional ways to cope with lupus.
How You Can Help Yourself
There are steps you can take to cope better with lupus, including:
Educating yourself -- and others. Learn as much as you can about the disease and its treatment. Share information with friends and family members so they will better understand the disease and how it affects you. Their support is important to success in managing the illness.
Practicing healthy lifestyle habits. Exercise regularly; eat a healthy, balanced diet; get enough rest; and avoid alcoholic beverages, particularly if you are depressed. Alcohol is a natural depressant. It can markedly increase the severity of depression and its symptoms.
Learning stress-management techniques. Living with a chronic disease is stressful. A mental health professional can teach you techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation, that you can use regularly to cope with the stress of lupus. Other stress relievers you can try include listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath or a walk, or doing some gentle exercises.
Doing activities you enjoy. Lupus may limit some activities. So it’s important to find things you enjoy doing and take time to do them. These activities can be as simple as reading a good book or doing thoughtful things for others.