Healthy Living

Chronic Illness and Depression

chronic illness and depression
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Are you suffering from a Chronic Illness?

Chances are that if you are suffering from a chronic illness you have experienced depression. Chronic illness and depression go hand in hand. Depression is a natural part of dealing with a chronic illness. When your body is challenged physically, it often times affects your brain chemicals which can lead to depression. Not to mention that with a chronic illness a person is dealing with an avalanche of new experiences both physical and emotional and that can affect their emotional health. Depression is an illness in itself and combined with other medical issues makes for a truly challenging situation.

What is a chronic illness?

A chronic illness is an illness that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely. However, chronic illnesses often can be controlled through diet, exercise, and certain medicines.

Or to put it another way:

Chronic illness is an illness that is permanent or lasts a long time. It may get slowly worse over time. It may lead to death, or it may finally go away. It may cause permanent changes to the body. It will certainly affect the person’s quality of life.”

Chronic Illness Sucks

“People diagnosed with chronic illnesses must adjust to the demands of the illness itself, as well as to the treatments for their condition. The illness may affect a person’s mobility and independence, and change the way a person lives, sees him or herself, and/or relates to others. For these reasons, a certain amount of despair and sadness is normal. In some cases, a chronic illness may actually cause depression.”

“There may be physical causes for depression. Some diseases may themselves cause depression. For example, diseases that destroy the myelin covering of nerves may affect the nerves in the brain, producing depression. Depression can also result from deficiencies in the brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine. In addition, some people may also inherit a genetic tendency toward depression.” Depression also may be a side effect from the medications used to treat the primary disease or disorder.

Depression caused by chronic illness often aggravates the illness, especially if the condition causes pain, fatigue, or disruption of social life. Depression makes pain hurt more. It causes fatigue and lethargy that can exacerbate the loss of energy of many chronic conditions. Depression also aggravates social disruption because it ends to make people withdraw into social isolation. Depression also impairs the immune system, which can hurt the body’s efforts to combat chronic illness.”

Minimally when dealing with a chronic illness one can expect to experience some form of depression. “Depression is part of the way human beings grieve their losses. “Reactive” depression is a normal response to the news that one has a chronic illness. The losses that result from chronic illness vary from person to person, but everyone grieves. Reactive depression is part of adjusting to the new lifestyle imposed by chronic illness.”

For tips on how to deal with a chronic illness read my article Tools for Dealing with a Chronic Illness

Recognizing Depression

“Doctors and patients should look for the following symptoms as clues of depression, especially in the presence of other medical conditions.

  • Persistent sadness that lasts more than two weeks
  • Lack of interest in family and other close relationships
  • Change in eating habits—eating more or less than usual
  • Change in sleeping habits—sleeping more or less than usual
  • Loss of energy/fatigue
  • Sense of hopelessness/helplessness
  • Lack of interest in taking medications/staying on required health care regimen
  • Missed doctor’s appointments
  • Exacerbation of chronic illness symptoms (which can signal an increased vulnerability to depression)”

Because of the overwhelming number of questions that I have received regarding Social Security Disability, I put together a step-by-step guide to assist individuals in applying for and obtaining these benefits. My comprehensive e-book, A Practical Guide to Social Security Disability Benefits is already getting rave reviews!

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Michelle Toole

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