How Arthritis May Affect Both Physical and Mental Health

How Arthritis May Affect Both Physical and Mental Health

From sore, swollen joints to stiffness and limited range of motion, most people are familiar with the physical impact of arthritis. When the pain sets in, just sitting still is often challenging. This interferes with quality of life and sends most people running to the doctor for pain relief. What many people don’t think about is the toll that this debilitating medical condition often takes on the mind, including emotions and mood.

Research into the connection between osteoarthritis and mental health found that sufferers are at the greatest risk for psychiatric disorders within the first months of diagnosis. Those taking corticosteroids and those under the age of 20 are also at more risk, but mental health issues can stem from arthritis at any time regardless of one’sage.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis isn’t always easy to diagnose because the symptoms are shared by other medical conditions. Even soreness from too much activity can lead to some of the most common arthritis symptoms. Medical practitioners may look for symptoms that continue over time or increase in severity, but this is still problematic because the severity and consistency of symptoms varies from person to person.

Some arthritis symptoms include the following:

  1. Joint pain
  2. Joint stiffness
  3. Swollen joints
  4. Redness or skin rashes
  5. Reduced range of motion

There are other symptoms that are related to specific types of arthritis, so it’s important to talk to a doctor as soon as possible. The difference between some types of arthritis is difficult to detect if a person don’t have medical training. Bloodwork, X-rays, and other tests can also help ensure that one receives the right diagnosis and treatment plan.

Symptoms of Depression & Anxiety

According to the Arthritis Foundation, people suffering from any type of arthritis are up to 10 times more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Those suffering from depression and arthritis are more likely to suffer from limited range of motion and mobility, and they may have an enhanced risk of developing other medical conditions. This is the result of a nonstop loop that is created when the pain of arthritis leads to depression, and then depression leads to reduced pain tolerance and even more pain.

One survey completed in Australia found that people suffering from arthritis are up to six percent more likely to suffer from anxiety and/or depression. More than 50,000 participants responded to the survey, and the researchers verified that rates of depression and anxiety among arthritis sufferers are higher than rates for the overall population.

Since these mental health challenges can enhance the pain of arthritis and lead to more severe physical limitations, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The faster one identifies the problem, the faster one can seek treatment to stop that loop of pain and mental distress.

The most common symptoms of depression are as follows:

  1. Consistent sadness
  2. Uncontrollable crying
  3. Hopeless thoughts
  4. Irritability
  5. Eruptions of anger
  6. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  7. Low energy levels
  8. Changes in appetite
  9. Social withdraw
  10. Slow cognitive processing, thinking
  11. Suicidal thoughts

The most common symptoms of anxiety are as follows:

  1. Nervousness
  2. Restlessness
  3. Panic attacks
  4. Accelerated heart rate
  5. Accelerated breathing
  6. Excessive sweating
  7. Shaking or trembling
  8. Difficulty concentrating
  9. Excessive, unexplained worry

A person doesn’t need to exhibit all these symptoms to suffer from depression and/or anxiety. Just one or two may interfere with one’s quality of life if they are ongoing or severe. When combined with arthritis pain, the risk factors for life interference go up even further.

Treatments for Arthritis

While some severe cases of arthritis may require surgery, treatment is often limited to prescription medication to control pain and reduce joint inflammation. Those suffering from extreme arthritis pain often combine their medication with natural arthritis treatments to create a more comprehensive plan that helps relieve pain to a greater degree. These natural treatments are often used by people with mild pain who don’t want to take prescription medication due to the side effects and risk of addiction.

Natural treatments for arthritis may include any of the following:

  1. Massage
  2. Copper or magnetic jewelry and braces
  3. Aromatherapy
  4. Occupational therapy
  5. Heat/cold compresses
  6. Acupuncture
  7. Natural herbs
  8. Essential oils

A doctor may help one secure occupational or physical therapy if it may help with their pain or other symptoms. A person will likely have to find their own practitioners for other types of alternative treatment, but make sure to inform the doctor what is going on. This ensures that any potential complications are treated appropriately.

Treatments for Depression & Anxiety

Medication is often the first form of treatment for depression and anxiety disorders because medical practitioners want to provide maximum relief as quickly as possible. If one’s problem is minor, they may find that medication is all that they need to relieve the symptoms and feel better. If that isn’t enough or prefer more natural treatments, it is likely that a person would need to start some form of psychotherapy.

The goal of therapy is to understand the root cause of one’s depression and anxiety, but a therapist may also teach breathing and visualization exercises that can help relieve symptoms whenever they arise. One may also learn about lifestyle changes that can help relieve symptoms, including eating a healthy diet and exercising daily.

Even though arthritis, depression, and anxiety can influence one another, they are often treated separately. The goal is always to improve one’s overall quality of life and minimize their pain, but some patients end up with multiple specialists overseeing different aspects of their medical care. Patients should keep each doctor informed of their overall treatment plan, so they end up with a manageable plan that addresses all physical and mental symptoms of arthritis.