Lupus and Mental Health Concerns — How Do I Manage?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system attacks your tissues and organs. Lupus-induced inflammation can affect several body systems. It can harm your kidneys, lungs, heart, brain, skin, joints, and blood cells.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an unpredictable disease. It not only threatens a person’s life, but also their mental and emotional well-being.

The Effects of Lupus on Mental Health

The mental effects of lupus are sometimes associated with the disease process itself or the treatment medications. As a result, this autoimmune disease may cause:

  • Cognitive dysfunction. A handful of people with lupus experience a variety of cognitive issues, including forgetfulness, difficulty thinking, or “lupus fog.” These problems often correspond with increased disease activity or flares. However, persistent cognitive problems can also be signs of depression.
  • Depression and anxiety. Having lupus or experiencing the potential side effects of treatment can trigger serious mental disorders. Depression and anxiety are two examples, both of which can cause severe loss of quality of life.
  • Personality changes and moodiness. Those with lupus can sometimes experience erratic changes in moods, feelings, and personality traits. For example, a patient who is usually calm and collected may have extreme feelings of anger, irritability, or hate. Personality changes and mood swings may be because of the disease process or the use of corticosteroid medications.

How to Cope with Lupus and Mental Health Concerns

You can improve living with lupus if you:

  • Educate yourself and those around you. It’s essential to learn as much as you can about lupus and its treatment. Sharing information with friends and family can avoid unwanted pity parties. In turn, they gain a better understanding of your disease and how it affects you. Their support is imminent to the success of managing lupus.
  • Live and breathe a healthy lifestyle. Like other diseases, a healthy lifestyle is crucial to coping with lupus. You should:
    • Exercise regularly
    • Eat a well-balanced diet
    • Get adequate rest
    • Get enough sleep at night
    • Avoid caffeine, if you have anxiety
    • Avoid addictive substances (drugs and alcohol), if you have depression
  • Do activities you enjoy to reduce stress. Even the simplest activities can help manage high levels of stress. Thus, it’s important to find activities you love and take the time to do them. Stress relievers you can try include walking your dog, taking a warm bath, listening to music, or spending quality time with those you love.
  • Love and appreciate yourself. Never let lupus define you or become the focus of your life. Remember that you are beautiful, talented, and strong. These qualities are far more worthy of your attention than an autoimmune disease.

Get Professional Help for the Emotional Effects of Lupus

Is happiness something that feels unattainable? Discuss your lupus-related mental health concerns with your doctor. He or she can help you find solutions, including a change in medication to manage your lupus. Or, they may refer you to a mental health professional who can help address your anxiety and depression.

May is Lupus Awareness Month and Mental Health Month. For additional health questions, contact the Lupus Foundation of America today.