Lupus Symptoms

Depression, Loneliness, Isolation, & Lupus

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Feelings of loneliness and isolation are common. And upwards of 25% of Lupus Warriors are also battling major depression.

A blog by Barbara Leech describes it thus:

“If it were not for the connections I have on Facebook and Lupus support websites, I am certain I could go weeks without connecting with anyone outside of work and family. That is a depressing and lonely fact about lupus that nobody seems to realize, except those of us who have the disease.”

The Lupus Foundation of America acknowledges that feelings of isolation and depression are very common for people with lupus. There are a lot of reasons for people with lupus to feel depressed: pain, stress, fear, and frustration as the disease progresses and lingers are the big ones. But depression can also be caused by missing chances to spend time with the people around you. 

Lupus makes it difficult to go out and do things with people, or even interact with them at home. Some people might not believe that you are sick and brush away your symptoms. These can seriously affect your mental health.

You should not feel bad for feeling sad – it is completely understandable. None of these are your fault… nor, are they insurmountable. Around 25% of Lupus Warriors are battling major depression.

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Isolation and loneliness

As humans, we need social interaction. Even for an introverted person, doing activities with family and friends is important to maintaining mental health. If these activities involves exercise, it can also promote physical health (which has its own effects on mental health). 

A lot of times, however, lupus can get in the way of these important interactions. Pain, fatigue, and flares can force Lupus Warriors off of the field, leaving them cut out of social gatherings and cut off from friends. Going outside with lupus can become difficult, especially with photosensitivity. Going to work with lupus can become an endurance test that leaves no room for socialization. 

The problem is, lack of social interaction can wear you down and can lead to depression, which makes it more difficult to go out and interact. This spiral of depression that only gets worse. 

Social interaction, therefore, is vital to Lupus Warriors, as much as any medication. 

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Physical appearance and depression

You might think that worrying about your appearance is vain, but you have a right to feel good about how you look. Feeling good about how you look can help you get out, interact with people, do better at work, and give you the confidence you need to keep moving forward.

Lupus can cause visible signs, such as a limp or, in the case of cutaneous lupus, rashes and discoloration on the body that can affect how you feel about yourself. Lupus medications such as corticosteroids can cause weight gain, including increased fat deposits on the face – a side effect known as “moon face.” 

Weight gain and rashes can be more noticeable to the patient than people around them. In fact, many people might not notice at all in some cases. But – especially when it is on the face, such as a malar rash, these visible symptoms can affect confidence and cause people with lupus to withdraw.

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The right strategies to get help

How do you break out of loneliness and depression? Though important, it isn’t by any means an easy task – and you might not have the energy to do it. Still, there are things that can help.

Mental health providers and medications

Sometimes, you need extra help to take care of your mental health. If you are struggling with depression, or having a particularly bad flare-up, add a psychiatrist and a therapist to your treatment team. There are also many different antidepressants available for depression, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors such as citalopram (Celexa), Fluoxetine (Prozac), and sertraline (Zoloft). 

Some types of antidepressants, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor) can also help with pain as well. Exactly how they help with pain is not fully understood. It may involve a change in the neurotransmitters in the spinal column that reduce pain signals for chronic pain, arthritis, and neuropathic pain. 

Looking to learn more about mental health? Check out these Top 4 Questions answered by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

 

Take care of your physical health

Taking care of your basic life needs can do a lot for your physical and mental health, and can help stave off depression as well as give you more energy to go out and be active with friends. Reserve time and energy to get an appropriate amount of exercise, eat a healthy balanced diet, and get plenty of rest – not only will you feel accomplished, but you will also feel better and will have more energy to devote to yourself and your life.

 

Find your fun

Lupus can keep you from doing your favorite activities, but there is always a way to enjoy yourself. Try to find fun things that you enjoy and that don’t take a lot out of you. Take time to relax and enjoy yourself – it is your life, after all. Having lupus doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it.

 

Look the way you want to look

Taking some time to look good can make you feel good. Looking like a million bucks can help you feel like a million bucks.  Makeup, clothes, and freshly done hair or self-care can all help!

 

Find the positive things in life

Lupus can be overwhelming, painful, and frustrating, but there is always a bright spot or silver lining. Taking time to focus on positive things – your strengths, a beautiful thing, something good that happened today, even a small success – can help boost your mood and keep you out of the depths. It’s not a cure-all, but, especially with such a negative news cycle, lingering on the good things can be a boon.

 

Fighting isolation

The chemical imbalance of depression and the pain of lupus may involve medications, but social isolation is very fixable. Finding support groups is a great way to bring you into contact with other lupus warriors. Volunteering for causes or activities that you enjoy can also help. Your friends are still there, too. If you can’t meet in person or make a call, text, or reach out online. If you want to get more old-school, you can always send a letter or a card. Who doesn’t love getting mail?

If you find yourself really needing help right now, you can call the national helpline:

1-800-662-HELP (4357) 

They can help you immediately, or just be someone to talk to. It’s free, paid for with tax dollars, so use it if you need it.

Comments (5)

5 thoughts on “Depression, Loneliness, Isolation, & Lupus

  1. I try to get out for a purely social activity at least once a week, I also grocery shop the same day each week along with a group of other folks and we stop for a coffee or lunch then as well! I make sure my hair is done, fresh clean clothes, makeup and nails. It makes me feel better and gives me something to look forward to. My sister and my good friend call me everyday.

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