JRA.... Journal of a Radical Arthritis Chick

Here I give advice, speak of my experiences and give information to those who want to better understand Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am NOT a medical professional, and you should always seek advice from a doctor.

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Location: MA, United States

Hello everyone! I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) when I was just 3 years old. I've had my battles with this disease over the years, and have decided to create a blog. I want to share my stories and adivce with other RA chicks, or anyone interested, to raise awareness and get insight from others. Feel free to comment/question me about anything. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stress and Depression

I've noticed a lot of posts recently on RA chicks about some of you experiencing and asking about depression.  It's definitely hard to be happy and excited about life when you're in so much pain, and your energy level is so low you can't even pull yourself out of bed.  I was reading an article that stated, patients who have RA are 50% more likely to experience depression.   According to the article a study was done at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and it found that almost 11% of all patients with RA were diagnosed with moderate to severe depression.  The study also found that only 1 in 5 of those patients discussed this with their rheumatologist.

These facts don't surprise me at all, you think about our daily lives, having to take care of our families, ourselves, and deal with everyday life is stressful enough.  Add to it our health,  and realizing we're not able to do all of this, or we do it and it leaves us with no energy, can be depressing.  I know I myself have gone through boughts of feeling depressed.  I'll admit I've never discussed it with my doctor, but it usually doesn't last long and doesn't seem severe.  I am usually capable of getting out of feeling depressed, and having a postive outlook on life. I've also found ways to help deal with my stress, which will be discussed further, later on. 

Past studies have shown that stress causes increased sensitivity to pain. It can cause people to feel helpless and negative. The physical symptoms of both stress and depression also have been shown to cause fatigue, weaken the immune system and cause weight gain- symptoms which in turn cause us to have even more stress.

A way to help deal with all of this, is to help cope with your stress, and recognize signs of depression.  People who have trouble dealing with stress, feel overwhelmed and have negative feelings, leading to depression.  You should discuss any symptoms of depression with your doctor.  To help you not reach the point of depression, it's important to deal with your stress.  Here is a list of some ways of managing your stress:

  • Identifying the sources of stress (e.g. work, family, health)

  • Management and stress reduction techniques (e.g. listening to music or relaxation tapes, eating healthy and getting enough sleep, managing time and schedules, accepting help from others, organizing and simplifying your life)

  • Coping strategies (e.g. focusing on the positive, making time for relaxation, sharing thoughts with family or friends

  • Meditation

  • Yoga or Tai Chi

  • Keeping a journal

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Biofeedback

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (changing the way you think and behave in order to reduce stress or depression)



  • I myself have tried a few of these stress managements, including Yoga, which I love.  Yoga and meditation really help me calm down and destress, also listening to music and reading are two other ways that help me.  Reading is a personal favorite, because it lets me escape life, and live out a fantasy, I usually feel happier when I read.  Managing your stress varies from person to person, but it's important to find something that helps you.  Starting hobbies, for me writing this blog and my photography, have helped a lot.  Find something that works for you.

    Recognizing signs of depression is also important.  If it's gotten this far, that you're experiencing the following symptoms, it's time to go see a doctor and get some help.  Here is a list of signs of depression:
    1. Depressed mood on most days for most of each day. (Irritability may be prominent in children and adolescents.)
    2. Total or very noticeable loss of pleasure most of the time.
    3. Significant increases or decreases in appetite, weight, or both.
    4. Sleep disorders, either insomnia or excessive sleepiness, nearly every day.
    5. Feelings of agitation or a sense of intense slowness.
    6. Loss of energy and a daily sense of tiredness.
    7. Sense of guilt or worthlessness nearly all the time.
    8. Inability to concentrate occurring nearly every day.
    9. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
    Depression is a serious condition that needs to be addressed, it's also important to discuss how you're feeling with your doctor.  Finding ways to help you cope can make your life so much better.  You don't need to be stuck in the rain for the rest of your life, you just need to find your sunlight to make things better for YOU.



    

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