Emotional Impact of RA - Ask the Experts
Does RA ever give you anxiety?
Definitely! Uncertainty makes me anxious and RA creates a lot of that! I could never have predicted how my disease damage progressed or when flares would come or if medications would work (or stop working). I think also that pain and stiffness can bring on anxiety because these RA symptoms make us feel not only bad, but also powerless or helpless to change things and feel better. It's not just having the disease that makes me anxious, but the impact of RA on how I feel and how it affects my life. Due the damage from the disease I have some significant physical disabilities, which can make the world more difficult to navigate. Dealing with accessibility issues also causes me anxiety because I have to resolve them and don't always have the solutions.
Yes, but not so pronounced. I worry about my future but I do not lose focus or slide into depression because of it. I firmly don't play the 'what if' game. I deal with issues as they come because otherwise, I am sure anxiety would envelop me. I believe strongly in facing my emotions and moving on quickly so they don't drag me down from my life.
Having never been prone to anxiety in the past, it took me quite a long time to notice the obvious signs in myself. It began with heart palpitations and I couldn't reign in my racing thoughts. I take medication and do gentle yoga to help manage the anxiety. There are so many things to worry about, inability to get things done today, overwhelming concerns about what the future might hold, and even though I hate to admit it, I have so much anxiety about letting those I love the most down.
Is it normal to feel hopeless or depressed?
While it's not fun, it's definitely normal to feel hopeless or depressed at times when living with RA. I have experienced these emotions. I have felt hopeless when I was struggling with my RA and didn't know what to do. This can be particularly strong during RA flares when I'm in pain and my treatment is not working. Fog that can accompany a flare only adds to these feelings. Depression can also be a part of RA because I feel sad about being in pain, having severe joint damage, and the health or abilities I have lost. If I am going through a tough patch that lasts longer than a few days, I seek out mental health help. Periodically I have seen psychologists to help with the emotional turmoil of living with RA and every time it was very helpful. With these experiences I have learned the difference of when I need additional help or if I can cope. And I also have developed coping mechanisms. For example, when I am feeling down emotionally I remind myself that I won't feel that way forever and make a plan for how I can feel better or practice self-care.
Useless, yes. Hopeless, no. I still have my brain so I can always challenge myself to learn something new when my body doesn't work. I think that as long as I have my brain I can do anything I want!
I would think that it would be weird if those of us with RA didn't occasionally feel hopeless and depressed. RA is a pervasive and unrelenting condition. It touches every single aspect of our lives and never lets us go. Living with that can take a toll leaving us feeling hopeless and depressed. With such an uncertain future, it's no wonder that so many of us feel this way. RA alienates my friends and family often leaving me feeling very isolated and alone. But it is so important to remember, even when it is hard, that we are not alone. RA warriors always have each other and a whole community of supporters to see us through the hardest times.
How would you answer these questions?
You know you have RA when [select all that apply in your experience]: