RA And Depression: Either, Either, Neither, Nor, Both, And?
Last updated: May 2023
A friend recently shared with me an article from The Guardian titled, “Is depression a kind of allergic reaction?”
The gist of the article is that depression is a result of inflammation, which is caused by the immune system. It specifically pinpoints RA patients as being more likely to suffer from depression.
This should come as no surprise that those of us with RA have higher rates of depression.
Wouldn’t you if your life went from taking everyday tasks for granted to making them nearly impossible to complete?
This is a chicken and egg thing. Am I depressed because I’m sick or am I sick because I’m depressed? To me, this line of thinking leads to victim-blaming. It puts the onus on the individual person.
If only I could get happy…
If only I cut out dairy and wheat out of my diet, I would feel so much better…
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these things don’t work for some people. But I think it’s misleading to suggest that any one thing will be the sole cause of someone’s RA going into remission or even being cured.
Let’s not forget about environmental factors. And thankfully the collective of humans on earth, both those before us and those of us here now, are to blame. We can’t look at any one person and blame them singlehandedly for the environmental issues that exist today – and that I strongly believe do contribute to the rise in autoimmune-related disorders.
But it is easy to blame individuals for their demeanor or outlook or way of life.
The article also makes the point that there is a lot of stigma when it comes to depression – and that by viewing it as a physical disease – you remove that stigma.
The article seems to be saying that if we just call depression RA, it will take all of the stigma away from depression. And basically seeks to put more on RA.
But what about the stigma that surrounds RA? What about the fact that to the average eye, RA is an invisible disease? What about the fact that most of the general public thinks RA is a disease of old people? How many in this community have been targeted for using handicapped spots by judge-y people who don’t see that they need them?
This article almost suggests that only illnesses viewed as psychological have stigma, but not illnesses that are viewed as physical. And that’s absolutely not true in many cases, including RA.
Unfortunately, the commenting on this article was closed, otherwise I would have provided my two cents.
However, I went through every comment (over 700 of them) and only a few were from people that have RA. The rest were written by people with depression. The only reason I make that distinction is because I think many people support the view that there is a physiological cause to depression – and based on the title of the article, you wouldn’t necessarily assume that RA would be singled out. I definitely wouldn’t have ended up reading this article if a friend hadn’t sent it to me asking me my opinion about it.
And my opinion is honestly not that favorable, which I would have happily shared if the commenting was still open.
I particularly didn’t like the fact that RA was singled out, nor did I feel that there was an adequate explanation provided as to the complex processes that are involved with any illness – psychological, physiological, environmental, etc.
Ultimately, do depression and inflammation have a connection? It’s possible. But to single out RA really rubs me the wrong way.
When I feel fatigued, I rest as much as I can:
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