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  • Writer's pictureValerie Smith, APRN

The Importance of Managing Mental Health for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Here at Paducah Rheumatology, we believe the mental health of our patients is just as important as their physical well-being. Living with a rheumatic disease is stressful and difficult, and we understand how that can drastically impact a person’s quality of life. Our healthcare team strives to help our patients navigate the challenges that come with autoimmune diseases, including struggles with mental wellness.

What Research Shows

A recent study discovered a possible correlation between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Published in the journal titled Rheumatology and Therapy, the study concludes:

“RA patients are more prone to have anxiety, depression and cognitive impairment compared to the general healthy population. Those mental health conditions contribute to less responsiveness to treatment and higher disease activity in RA mainly due to fatigue and bodily pain.”

Knowing this connection, the research went on to answer the question of why - why does RA have an effect on a patient’s emotional and mental state? The study suggests there is a potential biological link:

“Chronic inflammation impairs the physiological responses to stress including effective coping behaviours, resulting in depression, which leads to a worse long-term outcome in RA …

Depression and anxiety are major psychiatric problems that can be related to RA either because of a biological and cytokine-related mechanism or because of the psychological impact of chronic medical adversity on a patients’ mental well-being …

Psychological stress can interfere with the immune system, and it is also evident that chronic inflammatory conditions can have an impact on the central nervous system.”

How Anxiety or Depression Looks

Anxiety or depression manifests itself differently in all of us. What one person experiences will not be the same symptoms for another person. There is a wide range of indicators to look for, such as (but not limited to):

✔️ frustration

✔️ irritability

✔️ lack of concentration

✔️ mood swings

✔️ sadness

✔️ insomnia

✔️ restlessness

✔️ nausea

✔️ sweating

✔️ loss of appetite

✔️ fatigue

✔️ irregular breathing

✔️ increased heart rate

The Importance of Mental Health Care

We look at the mental health of our patients as well as their physical health in order to provide the best care possible. We want to improve your rheumatic disease progression, which means we must also monitor your mental state.

There are tools and resources we can use to support your overall happiness and health. In an appointment, we will discuss medication, therapy, and even natural solutions to help you feel better. We cater our care to the individual needs and preferences of each one of our patients.

The goal of our healthcare team is to provide well-rounded care to our patients. If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, we want to know. We want to help you and work together to improve your overall well-being.

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