Antidepressants and RA

Last updated: September 2022

I don't mind admitting that I have trouble with my mental health. I have struggled with clinical depression and bipolar II for a long time, and I have been on a cocktail of different medications to help treat those conditions.

RA treatment and antidepressants

Like many have experienced with RA treatments, finding the right medication can be difficult due to the wide variety of potential side effects. More than that, some antidepressants and antipsychotics can interact with RA medications, making the hunt for the right medicine more difficult.

Nevertheless, I want to share some of my stories and struggles with treating depression and RA concurrently because I believe it should be discussed, especially considering that those who have RA are also susceptible to experiencing mental health problems.

The effect on mental health

The first inkling I had that mental health and RA were connected was purchasing my Humira on my CVS specialty website. This might sound a little odd, but each time I have to refill my medicine, the pharmacist asks me if I've experienced any "changes in mental state" that could be caused by or related to Humira. This prompted me to look into this a little bit more; unfortunately, the results are less than clear.

Some sources indicate that mental state changes are not associated with RA (including most websites when you Google this). It’s also important to note that Humira’s website mentions that mental health changes are not part of the side effects, though there is some bias here.

Some indicate that they do. For instance, on MedicalNewsToday.com, the author lists those who take Humira may experience depression and mood swings (noting that Stelara, the drug in comparison, does not have those same side effects). So, it's unclear whether biologics in general can cause changes in mental state.1

Is RA to blame?

From my personal experience, I have not had any changes in my mental health because of Humira--that I know of. I mostly say that because I experienced the brunt of my depression way before having rheumatoid arthritis and being on Humira.

To be clear, rheumatoid arthritis definitely worsened my depression and OCD. I felt like I was losing control of my body, life, and experience after so much was taken away from me after my RA diagnosis. What would I miss out on in life due to RA? What things would stay the same and what things would change with this new diagnosis? These questions plagued my mind and caused me to feel worse and worse.

Finding the right medication

This led to me seeking stronger treatment, and I couldn't be happier that I did. With the right medication (and one that doesn't interact with my Humira), I feel like I have some control over my life again, which I hadn't felt in so long.

I'm now on Viibryd to treat depression, OCD, and anxiety, and I have experienced a noticeable difference in how I feel. Because Viibryd isn't an SSRI, it has less of the typical side effects of SSRIs (weight gain, sexual side effects, etc.). Who knew that RA and mental health could be so intricately connected?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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