Psychiatry Associates Blog

The Impact of Chronic Disease on Mental Health

depression and cancerSometimes, sources of anxiety or stress are fleeting, offering the promise of a reprieve in a matter of days, weeks, or even months.  While the struggle may feel endless, we often ultimately realize that there is an end in sight.  However, when it comes to living and managing day-to-day life with a chronic illness, there may be no such promise ahead.   As a result, chronic diseases can have a drastic impact on not only a patient’s physical health, but on their mental health as well.  In fact, as many as one-third of those diagnosed with a chronic illness will also experience symptoms of depression.


What is the Connection Between Chronic Illness and Depression?

Long-term illness requires major adjustments for the patient.  They must become accustomed to life with limitations that the disease may bring such as restricted mobility and loss of independence.  Furthermore, they must often adjust to a lifestyle that requires dependence on medication which may drastically impact the way they feel, all while potentially dealing with questions surrounding their own mortality.  It is a situation that can easily lead to feelings of sadness, stress, and despair.

Unsurprisingly, the diseases which are most commonly linked with depression are those which typically have an extreme impact on a patient’s lifestyle, overall health, and longevity.   For instance, Parkinson’s disease has a rate of associated depression that is around 51 percent, cancer is roughly 42 percent, and Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes all have rates above 10 percent.

Tips for Coping with Chronic Illness and Depression 

Whenever symptoms of depression are observed, it is important to quickly seek treatment from a medical professional such as a psychiatrist.  This is particularly true for those with chronic illness.  In a situation where physical health is already compromised, mental health struggles can serve to exacerbate medical concerns and hinder potential recovery.  In most cases, prescription medication and coping strategies provided by a mental health professional can help dramatically reduce the impact of depression.

Additionally, there are other steps that a patient may take to help lessen feelings of depression or anxiety as they navigate life with a chronic disease.  These can include:

  • Learning ways to accommodate any new physical limitations such as the use of special equipment, schedule changes, or therapy
  • Understanding the physical impact of treatments and find methods to lessen them
  • Keeping communication with all medical professionals involved in care open and clear
  • Identifying hobbies that are enjoyable but not physically demanding
  • Maintaining a network of support, whether from family and friends or through groups of others in similar situations

Depression that comes as a result of chronic illness can be serious and may even worsen a patient’s physical health.  Early treatment and successful coping strategies are vital to maintaining overall wellbeing. 

If you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease and have noticed changes in your mental health such as possible signs of depression, it is important to act quickly.  Contact Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge to learn more and to request an appointment with any of our board-certified psychiatric physicians.