Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Depression and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Depression and Rheumatoid Arthritis seem to go hand in hand. In fact, according to a research study funded by the Arthritis Foundation, a recent diagnosis of RA and the associated disability put the patient at a greater risk for developing depression. In addition, outcomes are generally worse for RA patients who suffer from depression as compared to those who do not.

Another study from 2008 showed that RA patients are twice as likely to experience depression but most do not discuss this with their physicians. The study showed that almost eleven percent of RA patients suffered from moderate to severe symptoms of depression but only one in five would discuss these symptoms with their physician.

While we all feel blue or sad at times. If these feelings become overwhelming or last for long periods of time then they interfere with the patent's ability to enjoy life and live a normal, active life. At this point, the patient should seek medical help for clinical depression.

Failure to seek help for depression can result in worsening of the symptoms and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

They symptoms of Depression include:
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Because depression can result in death, anyone who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions must be taken seriously. If you or someone you care about is having these feelings, seek medical attention immediately or call the suicide hotlines:
  • 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
  • 1-800-273 TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889) Deaf hotline
Warning signs of suicide may include:
  • a sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • always talking or thinking about death
  • clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
  • losing interest in things one used to care about
  • making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
  • talking about suicide (killing one's self)
  • visiting or calling people one cares about
Depression is not something to be embarrassed about. It is a medical problem that will not improve without help. If you are having symptoms of feeling down or blue that don't go away, talk to your physician before the depression becomes worse.

Remember, you do not have to face this alone.

1)  Research Update: Depression and Rheumatoid Arthritis
2) Depression in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
3) Signs of Clinical Depression


  1. A long time friend and former handball doubles partner, 56, killed himself last February because of the pain of untreatable ankylosing spondyloses and the failure of his physician to help him get medical marijuana. He reached out to me a few months before, but I didn't think is was as bad as it apparently was. I believe the writer Hunter S. Thompson also killed himself due to chronic pain. My masseuse was his and I bet he had RA.

  2. AWESOME! I'm so glad you put this information on here. Though I do not have depression, I have a loved one that has it terribly & it's difficult for them talk about it. I do have moments or even an occassional day once in awhile but nothing like what I have seen. I can usually easily snap out of it doing some housework or sewing. My loved one, eh.. nothing helps when they get the deep depression. So I just hug and remind they are loved deeply.

  3. After 20 years of RA and an associated traumatic life event, I have been pushed over a psychological line of sorts. I find myself hoping I do not have a long life. I don't think I can handle another 20 years of this.
    That being said, I am now getting help with depression, something I should have been treated for years ago.
    It is early going, but I might just make it through this.

    Thank you for posting this article.