Lupus is a chronic inflammatory condition where your body’s natural defense system, your immune system, attacks healthy cells by mistake. This process can lead to inflammation, tissue damage, and at its worst death. Though the most commonly discussed areas affected by lupus are often the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, and lungs - lupus can also dramatically affect the brain and nervous system which can impact a persons mental health.
In this blog we will explain how lupus can affect your mental health, either from the disease itself, its treatments, and/or simply the emotional toll living with the ups and downs of an incurable illness like lupus can cause.
Clinical depression and anxiety may be a result of the continuous ripple effect of emotional and psychological stressors associated with living with a chronic illness. It is something rarely talked about with lupus because often there are so many other issues that are prioritised before a patient's mental health.
Depression and anxiety can be dismissed, under-emphasised, and even over-emphasised. It is imperative to give it the appropriate attention it deserves and to remove associations of shame or disgrace from mental health issues. Moreover, if a doctor is not validating your mental health issues, time to find one who will.
Can lupus medications can cause depression and anxiety?
In short, yes.
Various medications used to treat lupus, especially corticosteroids, may cause clinical depression. Corticosteroids such as prednisone (and at a dose of 20mg or more) can trigger depression and anxiety because it alters hormones in the brain. Some pain medication, medication given to treat nerve pain, and even the biologic Benlysta can cause depression (though it is rare).
Can vitamin deficiencies associated with lupus cause depression and anxiety?
If your Vitamin D level is low, it can take you down...physically and mentally. Vitamin D is a key player in serotonin activity. Serotonin influences mood and sleep, as well as appetite and digestion. If you are deficient in Vitamin D, you may experience fatigue, depression or increased anxiety levels.
Another deficiency to look out for if you are experiencing anxiety or depression is iron (ferritin). One of iron's main jobs in your body is to help build and maintain serotonin and dopamine. These are mood-regulating chemicals, so if they are unbalanced, you may experience feelings of anxiety or stress.
Magnesium is known for being a mood-stabilizing mineral that can help process stress, and if it’s low, it can cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and cause sudden mood changes.
Other vitamins to look out for are vitamin B1, B6, and B12 which manage stress hormones as well.
How to cope with depression and anxiety:
If you are living with lupus or your feelings are brought on from the stress of the illness or medication side-effects, it is imperative to understand that you are not alone. It is important to reach out to your doctor and be honest with how you are feeling physically and mentally. Feelings of depression, lupus fog, or anxiety are common and treatable. Your doctor can help relieve mental health issues caused by lupus, often by changing medications or adding one for anxiety or depression. There are several types of medications that can help ease the effects of clinical depression. Anti-anxiety medicines are also available to reduce worry and fearful feelings. In some people, improvements can occur in a matter of weeks once medication is started.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.