Lupus and Depression and How To Cope

Lupus and Depression


 May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Between 17 and 75 percent of lupus patients suffer from depression, caused not only by the disease, but also related to the use of steroids to treat it, and the various psychosocial stressors related to how chronic lupus erythematosus is.

Many studies confirm that the most evident neuropsychiatric manifestations in Lupus are, in the first place, cognitive impairment, as well as depression and headaches, and in a smaller percentage seizures, anxiety disorders and psychosis. It should be noted that depression is one more manifestation of an organic disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus is one of those diseases.

Depression is present many time in rheumatic diseases, especially in Lupus erythematosus. The most common cause is the emotional drain from the stress of coping with the complications of physical illness. Patients with lupus moderately experience anxious symptomatology, as a state or trait of it. They do not consider depression to be part of them or their personality, but if they realize that depression is part of their illness, patients agreed to the fact that situational depression is not only high, but it increases as they go through this disease, understandably so.

When certain organs or organ systems are affected by lupus (such as the brain, heart, or kidneys), clinical depression may occur. As Lupus erythematosus is a disease whose first clinical manifestation can affect any organ, it must be kept in mind when faced with psychiatric symptoms such as depression.

In relation to the cause, we can highlight some factors that cause different symptoms, among them, side effects from drugs taken during treatment, such as corticosteroids may cause depressive tendencies. Harrison and Ravdi stated that the deterioration in patients is associated with the neuropsychiatric alterations of the pathology in Lupus. Likewise, Postal, Costallat and Appenzeller, stated that Lupuscan go side to side with mood disorders.

Although the authors do not clarify whether the aforementioned alterations are a symptom of Lupus, they did determine that these patients present greater signs of mild to moderate depression, despite not being a characteristic of Lupus, but rather a factor adjacent to coping with it when it becomes a chronic pathology.

It is clear that the presence of depressive symptomatology is common in patients with Lupus; and the specialists Harrison and Ravidin affirm that said depression entails an apparent global compromise of the intellectual functions. With Lupus, patients with depressive symptoms find it difficult to carry out basic daily activities, even more so than those symptoms associated with anxiety.

The presence of depression in patients with Lupus manages to alter the functioning of cognitive activity in them. As patients score higher in their levels of depression, when Lupus progresses, it begins to be related to lower performance in selective attention tasks and greater errors in sustained attention, hindering the correct functioning of memory of work. 

As with any illness whether it be physical or mental, in people with lupus it hinders the functioning of immediate verbal memory and generates short-term memory performance by recognizing information. Likewise, these symptoms significantly compromise immediate-type visual memory. 

In short, it is not strange to those of us who struggle with this illness to also suffer from depression because of all these symptoms and flare ups that we experience. And if you are at a point in your life where you feel that feelings of sadness and extreme depression are taking over we strongly advise that you see your doctor to get a referral. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, talking to someone and trying to manage this one side effect of the disease that might be able to be more controlled. 

How to know if you are experiencing depression?

Even though it’s normal to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, frustration, and sadness when you are diagnosed with this disease and when you are living with a date to do with all its difficulties and challenges, there’s a point where you may realize your emotions are at an all time low. Clinical depression is defined as feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, crying nonstop for no reason, a lack of ability to get up from bed and perform your daily tasks, if you’re feeling absolutely overwhelmed don’t hesitate to ask your primary care physician for help. 

What can I do? 

Talk to your primary care physician about getting a referral for psychotherapy. 

Don’t be afraid to take antidepressants if that’s what is needed and recommended by your doctor. Lately it has been shed a light on the taboo of taking medications for mental health. There’s nothing wrong with taking some thing that will help you get out of your emotional downward. 

Find ways to reduce pain. Experts 

Often recommend Yoga, Pilates, acupuncture among others therapies. 

Get more exercise and improve your sleep habits. Lack of energy, and lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of depression.




Disclaimer : Do not start any new medications or exercise routine before consulting with your doctor.


1. Postal M, Costallat L T, Appenzeller S. Neuropsychiatric manifestations in systemic lupus erythematosus: Epidemiology, pathophysiology and management. CNS Drugs. 2011;25(9):721- 36. DOI: 10.2165/11591670-000000000-00000
2.Harrison M, Ravdin L. Cognitive dysfunction in neuropsychiatric systemic lupus erythematosus. Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 2002;14(5): 510-4. Disponible en psychiatric_systemic.5.aspx?trendmd-shared=0



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