Rheumatoid Arthritis: Keeping a Positive Outlook
Realistic optimism fuels the body's immune system and triggers natural painkillers.
How Depression Makes Arthritis Pain Worse
People who are depressed are more sensitive to pain, Raison says. Existing
pain can become more intense -- and new aches and pains can develop.
"There's a lot that's come to light on this in the past few years,"
he tells WebMD. "People who are medically healthy can experience moderate
to severe pain when they are depressed. People with depression can actually
feel pain that is comparable to people who have active rheumatoid
That's because depression puts other brain chemicals out of whack -- those
that affect how the body functions, Raison explains. Both the emotional and
physical symptoms of depression involve nerve pathways into the brain and
spinal cord. Two brain chemicals involved in regulating mood -- serotonin and
norepinephrine -- also keep the body running smoothly. They help regulate our
sleep, our sex drive, and they help keep aches and pains from dominating our
If those brain chemicals are out of whack, so is the body. We get more
headaches, back and muscle pains, joint pain, and digestive problems. We feel
exhausted and don't sleep well.
"If you're depressed, you really need to see a doctor," says Raison.
"If you need an antidepressant, you need to stay on it long enough that it
starts working. The vast majority of people don't take it long enough to get a
benefit. They often quit taking it after the first month." Many people
don't realize that it may take up to eight weeks before they feel the full
effects, says Raison.
Getting treated for depression truly can help relieve pain, Raison tells
WebMD. "If we can treat people for depression, their pain will get
better," he says.
Make Optimism a Goal When You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
Good coping skills are an important part of this picture, Raison says.
"You can get a good mental 'loop' going. Start by doing everything possible
to keep your physical body in the best physical functioning possible. Treat
your pain aggressively and early on. If you don't have pain, you are less
likely to be anxious and depressed."
With rheumatoid arthritis, the unpredictability of the disease is the
biggest problem, says psychiatrist Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a professor of
psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University and chief psychologist
at the Grady Health System, both in Atlanta.
"It's important to figure out what you can control -- in other areas of
your life and in your illness," Kaslow tells WebMD. "We know that the
more people take control of treatment and activity level, the better they can