Coping with Depression and Chronic Illness

If you’re dealing with a chronic illness, it’s not unusual to feel sad or discouraged. A serious condition, like diabetes or heart disease, can bring big life changes or limit what you can do. But if your symptoms last longer than a few weeks, you may have depression. More than just feeling blue, depression is a real illness, and should be treated as such. Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor. Treatment can help you live more fully and feel more in control, even when you’re coping with a serious illness.

Why the Two Go Hand in Hand

A chronic condition can make you feel anxious about your treatment and the future. And some illnesses can even trigger depression. For example, Parkinson’s disease and stroke change the brain in ways that have a direct role in depression. Illness-related stress and anxiety can also bring on symptoms of depression.

Depression is common with these chronic illnesses:Coping with Depression and Chronic Illness - In Content

A chronic condition can make you feel anxious about your treatment and the future.

At the same time, if you suffer from depression, you may have an increased risk of some illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. While the reasons are not yet clear, it may be that people with depression have more trouble caring for their health — not eating right, for example, or neglecting to take medications. Some medical conditions can even become worse when coupled with depression.

Managing Depression and Chronic Illness

Be aware of these stressors that often accompany a long-term condition and can trigger depression:

  • Coping with pain or discomfort
  • Adjusting to new limitations on your life
  • Managing greater financial pressures
  • Dealing with feelings of frustration, anger, confusion or isolation
  • Managing side effects from medicines that contribute to depression

While it can be especially challenging to deal with depression along with a chronic condition, remember that depression is treatable. When you take steps to manage the daily stresses of living with your illness, you will improve the quality of your life on all levels.

Small Steps: See a Health Care Provider
If frequent feelings of dread or anxiety are interfering with your normal activities, talk to your doctor about whether you may have an anxiety disorder.