How can a chronic illness affect my risk for depression?

Erika Schwartz, MD
Internal Medicine
Chronic illnesses are very often the cause of depression. The risk for depression is high in people diagnosed with chronic illness. To avoid adding another diagnosis to your chronic disease, you must focus on finding a good support group that does not focus on negative issues and work with physicians that do not scare you into getting depressed. Family and friend support are also key and a good therapist may be what the doctor ordered for you to work out the issues associated with the diagnosis of a chronic illness.
Serious illness such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer sends some into depression. First the medications required can cause hormonal changes that effect mood. If the disease prevents you from eating and exercising optimally, negative moods can descend as well. Most of all, however, the onset of serious illness can cause a level of stress, fear and sadness that affects even the most upbeat. Anti-depressant medication can help you face the challenges that lay ahead. Check with your doctor to make it safe to take the mood medications with your other medications.
Depression has often been referred to as a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Therefore, it is not a surprise that depression is the most common complication of almost all chronic or serious medical conditions. Research has shown that depression often causes changes that can worsen a medical condition and reduce the needed energy necessary to cope with changes and treatment schedules, creating a vicious cycle of worsening physical and emotional symptoms.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.