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Arthritis, Anxiety, Depression: Frequent Companions

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Not only can arthritis make your joints ache, it can affect your mood, too. One-third of arthritis patients ages 45 and older suffer from anxiety, depression or both, a new federal study reports -- and half of these patients don't seek help for their mood disorder.

What we already know. Anxiety and depression are far more common in people with arthritis than in people in the general population. Moreover, past evidence has already shown that:

  • People with rheumatoid arthritis who are depressed are more likely than patients who aren't depressed to experience a higher level of pain, a greater number of painful joints, more frequent visits to their doctor, more days spent in bed and an increased risk of death.
  • Osteoarthritis patients who are depressed report higher pain intensity than patients who aren't depressed.
  • Arthritis patients who believe they can manage or influence their symptoms are more likely to have better outcomes than patients who don't believe they can control their symptoms.

Depression and anxiety can have overlapping symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or concentrating, nervousness and irritability -- and many people who've had an anxiety disorder in the past develop depression later. Anxiety isn't a single condition; it consists of several disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (constant, excessive worrying), phobias, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What you can do.  Don't let anxiety or depression prevent you from coping with arthritis. Your first step should be to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. He or she may then prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicine, counseling and/or behavioral therapy. Lifestyle changes can also reduce anxiety and depression and improve pain.

Your doctor may also recommend aerobic exercise and strength training, which are essential to both physical health and mental well-being. Self-managed education programs and arthritis intervention programs may also help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two proven self-management programs that can help improve your quality of life:

  • Arthritis Self-Management Program. Sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, this course teaches you techniques to build your own program. To find a program near you, visit chaptermap.php.
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. This program features topics aimed at people with arthritis. For more information, go to patienteducation.stan 


Posted in Arthritis on September 3, 2012

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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