Depression and Lupus: How to Cope, When to Get Help

  • author name Cynthia Longenecker, MSW, LCW
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Lupus made headlines, when pop star Selena Gomez told Billboard magazine that she is one of 1.5 million Americans living with the chronic autoimmune disease.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, lupus most often affects women ages 15 to 44. The condition causes a variety of symptoms that come and go, including fatigue, fever, weight loss, painful joints, abnormal bloating and rash.

What Feelings are Normal and When Might You Need Help?

If you are diagnosed with lupus, it’s normal to feel sad, angry or frustrated. You can also feel out of control, as the symptoms of lupus are unpredictable. These feelings should lessen as you adjust to the challenges of living with lupus.

But if these negative feelings last for more than few weeks and become severe enough to disrupt your daily life, you could have clinical depression.

Clinical depression affects between 15 and 60 percent of people who have a chronic illness. Women are twice as likely as men to develop clinical depression—a serious but treatable condition.

What Causes Depression?

A number of factors can cause clinical depression in people with lupus, including the physical effects on the body and the emotional toll from the stress of living with a chronic illness. Some medications used to treat lupus -- especially corticosteroids, such as prednisone – also can contribute to clinical depression.

How Do You Know if You Might Have Clinical Depression?

In addition to general feelings of sadness, helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness, you may experience changes in appetite, sleep, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy.

Keep in mind that depression is sometimes hard to recognize in people with lupus, because the two conditions can have similar symptoms, such as lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and diminished sexual interest.

Clinical depression can be treated in a variety of ways including psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, joining a support group, and staying in touch with family and friends also can help.

If you think you could have clinical depression, talk to your healthcare provider who can offer suggestions on treatment to help you feel more like yourself again.

author name

Cynthia Longenecker, MSW, LCW

Cynthia Longenecker, MSW, LCW, is a licensed clinical counselor with Lancaster General Health Women’s Specialty Center where she focuses on the unique behavioral health needs of women across ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.

Education: Master’s degree in Social Welfare–University of California at Los Angeles.

Call: 717-544-0700

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The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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