Why Common Conditions Like Arthritis and IBS Are Linked to Depression

The quality of our life is one of the most important determining factors for our mental health. Conversely, deteriorating mental health has the ability to actively wreak havoc on our lifestyle. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has extensively explored the link between mental illness and quality of life.

Common conditions like arthritis and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) clearly affect our day-to-day lives. But can arthritis make you depressed? What else contributes to mental illness associated with these conditions?

Read on to find out!

Clinicians have only recently started considering mental health an essential part of an individual’s overall well-being. Even today, there is a vast disconnect between mental and physical health in almost all areas of clinical practice.

However, the link between the two can neither be ignored nor denied. For example, schizophrenic individuals exhibit double the rate of death from cardiovascular diseases as compared to a mentally sound person.

Man with his face against a wall.

Moreover, multiple studies over the past decade have concluded that depression is a common symptom as well as a by-product of both chronic and terminal illnesses. 

It is interesting to note that it is not how debilitating disease is that mostly determines its effect on one’s mental health. Rather, it is the mere existence of a debility that can lead to depression and other mental health problems.

Can Arthritis Make You Depressed?

Although we all know that arthritis results in chronic pain, fatigue, weakness, and many other physical symptoms, clinicians often leave depression out of the picture. However, the mental health aspect of arthritis has come to light recently and is starting to get more coverage.

You must be wondering: is depression a symptom of arthritis? Is it really causation or merely correlation? Can arthritis make you depressed?

Well, it can. Let’s look at some factors to understand how.

Inflammation

Simply put, arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. Certain chemicals, known as pro-inflammatory markers, are present in inflamed tissues and confirm the presence of inflammation.

Interestingly, raised levels of certain pro-inflammatory markers are observed in depressed individuals who are even suffering from any inflammatory disease. The most important of these is C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleukin-1 (IL-1).

In addition to this, studies have suggested that treatment of depressed individuals with anti-inflammatory medication can help treat their depression. This further corroborates the fact that depression and inflammation tend to go hand in hand.

It is therefore not difficult to conclude that depression would likely accompany a disease characterized by severe inflammation.

Chronic Pain

Living with pain is not an easy task. Even minor, short-term illnesses seem to suck the life right out of us. 

In case you have seen a loved one struggle with chronic pain or been through it yourself, you must be familiar with the mood changes associated with it.

People suffering from arthritis and other painful diseases live in a constant state of stress. This stress can be both physical and mental. Although the neurological mechanisms for this correlation are not well-defined, research does confirm the link between chronic pain and depression.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, people suffering from chronic pain are three times more likely to become depressed. It is, therefore, understandable why arthritic patients might require an equal amount of attention towards their mental health as towards their physical health.

Altered Lifestyle

Disease or disability, no matter how small, has the potential to upend one’s life. Moreover, it does not happen overnight. With time, the collection of small changes one has to make to accommodate the pain and debility leads to a much different life than before. 

As Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a brilliant neurosurgeon, upon being diagnosed with cancer himself, said in his book, When Breath Becomes Air: “Death may be a one-time event, but living with a terminal illness is a process.”

Chronic illnesses, too, often feel terminal given the barrage of life-long complications they bring. Here is a list of some changes that can lead to an altered lifestyle.

  • Decreased Mobility: The inability to move around, whether it is for work, enjoyment, or simple personal needs, can put a damper on anyone’s mood. Now imagine living with this hurdle. People often feel caged and suffocated despite having autonomy over their lives.
  • Altered Social Relationships: Chronic disease often impacts our relationships more than we might expect. From increased feelings of dependency to the inability to go out for your regular morning walk with friends, one’s connections with the people one holds dear suffer. Feeling disconnected from loved ones affects one’s mental health tremendously.
  • Giving Up Day-to-Day Responsibilities: Chronic pain and fatigue make it difficult to perform everyday tasks with the same efficiency as before. This leads to a constant build-up of feelings of insufficiency and incompetence.

Collectively, these factors easily make depression a symptom of arthritis.

IBS and Depression

Someone leaning up against a wall.

Although there is no causation between the two, IBS, or spastic colon, and depression are correlated. Some scientists say this is a result of the neural connections between our gut and nervous system, and others attribute it to the response of our immune system towards stress. 

However, studies confirm that screening for mental health issues is important for patients suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

However, one thing is certain. IBS adversely affects the quality of one’s life, causing chronic discomfort, pain, and fatigue. As we have seen with arthritis, these factors can lead to a deterioration in one’s mental health over time.

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The Bottomline

Chronic diseases and depression are not exclusive to one another. What makes depression a symptom of arthritis and IBS also makes it an important aspect to consider in any long-term disorder.

Physical and mental suffering both require an equal level of attention and care. In case you are feeling any signs and symptoms of depression, we suggest you speak to your doctor and immediately get screened for it. Quick screening and therapy can save you a lifetime of mental anguish associated with mental illness. 

We wish you health and happiness and hope this article helped clear your doubts.

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