Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Thanks to a world renowned television show, Lupus has become somewhat famous in the United States and abroad, and yet the condition itself is fairly rare.
According to experts, many patients with Lupus suffer from anxiety and depression. But why this occurs is still being debated. In this article, we'll explore some of the links between anxiety and lupus, and describe what you can do to try to decrease the symptoms.
Your Lupus Symptoms Causing Anxiety
Many people with Lupus develop anxiety because it's so hard to live with the condition. Learn about ways to control that anxiety with my free 7 minute anxiety test.
The Origins of Lupus and Anxiety
While many of those suffering from Lupus also have anxiety, the anxiety itself is still a separate condition. It needs to be looked at as its own problem that you develop strategies to cure. Take my free anxiety test to find out more about how you can stop your anxiety.
Lupus isn't necessarily believed to cause anxiety directly for most of those that are suffering, but it still might. Lupus impersonates other diseases as your body attacks its own tissues, and it absolutely possible for your lupus to affect some part of your body that will eventually create anxiety. Lupus can even affect your brain, and anything that affects your brain can contribute to anxiety.
However, it's not believed that most of those suffering from anxiety have anxiety specifically caused by the autoimmune disease itself. Rather, the most likely reasons that lupus causes anxiety include:
- Frightening Condition Lupus of course is a fairly frightening condition. It mimics other disorders, which can make it hard to diagnose. It makes people sleep for hours on end, possibly leading to pain and other discomforts, among many other issues. Any type of condition with health symptoms can cause fairly severe anxiety.
- Inactivity Lupus makes it very hard to exercise or be active in any way. A lack of exercise can actually cause anxiety, because it prevents your body from relaxing and increase physical and mental tensions. It's likely that many people suffering from lupus also have anxiety as a result of their fatigue.
- Symptoms Lupus symptoms may also contribute to anxiety, where anxiety is a secondary problem that is the direct result of various lupus issues. For example, lupus causes significant pain, and long term pain is known to cause anxiety. Lupus can also cause trouble breathing, rashes on the face, chest pain, lupus fog, and other symptoms that may lead to personal anxiety for various reasons. It's also many of these symptoms that cause people to develop panic attacks, which is another type of anxiety.
- Uncertainty Lupus also causes a lot of uncertainty. It can come and go. It can change in severity. It can cause the potential for blood clots. Uncertainty can cause people to overthink their future and worry about what will happen next, which is a prime factor in the development of anxiety.
- Medicines Finally, many of the medications used to treat lupus have anxiety as a side effect. So it may not be lupus itself causing anxiety, but the medications used to treat it.
All of these are likely reasons that those with lupus often develop more anxiety than those without lupus, and why living with the condition is so difficult. Remember, anxiety is also a disease like any other, so once you've developed anxiety - whether it's from lupus or not - it's not something that can be easily controlled. It needs intervention to help you stop your anxiety symptoms.
There's No Such Thing as Justifiable Anxiety
One problem for those with lupus is that they often don't try to treat their anxiety symptoms. They convince themselves that their anxiety is "deserved" and decide to avoid seeking necessarily treatments. This is all due to the notion that lupus makes fear a bit more justified, which in turn means that it's not something worth fighting.
But that ignores some very real realities about anxiety. First, anxiety is incredibly treatable, even in those with chronic disease. This implies that anxiety isn't something you have to live with as the result of your condition. Second, lupus isn't necessarily fatal. Lupus can be dangerous, but it isn't always, and allowing yourself to waste your life as a result of the condition is a mistake. Third, even if lupus was always deadly (which it is not), anxiety interferes with the ability to be happy, and why wouldn't one want to be happy in whatever limited time left?
Don't forget that anxiety isn't just fear. It's also a type of negative thinking that feels natural. So anxiety may actually be causing you to feel like your anxiety doesn't need to be treated. You may think that your fears are justified, but anxiety makes you feel that way, almost as if anxiety wants you to be anxious.
How to Reduce Anxiety From Lupus
Generally the best way to treat anxiety is to start exercising, eating healthier, sleep, meditate, and so on. Certainly all of those are still useful, but you do need to make sure you're talking to your doctor about your lupus and what you're feeling, because struggling with the symptoms of lupus can make it harder to initiate some of the best coping mechanisms.
So while you should absolutely start exercising and learning relaxation strategies as best you can, you do need to make sure that you're simultaneously working on your lupus. Without that treatment, you're going to have a very hard time initiating many of the best coping strategies.
Seeing a psychologist can also be incredibly valuable. Many empirically validated techniques have been used to combat chronic illness anxiety with great success, so finding a psychologist that can work with you on your anxiety issues is incredibly valuable.
You should also take my free 7 minute anxiety test now. It'll take a look at your symptoms and provide recommendations for what you can do to treat it.
Adams Jr, Serrhel G., et al. Stress, depression, and anxiety predict average symptom severity and daily symptom fluctuation in systemic lupus erythematosus. Journal of behavioral medicine 17.5 (1994): 459-477.
Bachen, Elizabeth A., Margaret A. Chesney, and Lindsey A. Criswell.Prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders in women with systemic lupus erythematosus. Arthritis Care & Research 61.6 (2009): 822-829.
Schrott, Lisa M., and Linda S. Crnic.Increased anxiety behaviors in autoimmune mice. Behavioral neuroscience 110.3 (1996): 492.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.