What you can do

Don’t let anxiety or depression prevent you from coping with arthritis. Your first step should be to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis. He or she may then prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicine, counseling and/or behavioral therapy. Lifestyle changes can also reduce anxiety and depression and improve pain.

Your doctor may also recommend aerobic exercise and strength training, which are essential to both physical health and mental well-being. If you feel that moderate exercise is more than you can manage, try a community-based physical activity program that teaches strategies to arthritis patients that can help you safely meet recommended levels of physical activity without exacerbating joint pain.

Self-managed education programs and arthritis intervention programs may also help. The CDC recommends two proven self-management programs that can help improve your quality of life:

  • Arthritis Self-Management Program. Sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation, this course teaches you techniques to build your own program. To find a program near you, visit www.arthritis.org/chaptermap.php.
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. This program features topics aimed at people with arthritis. For more information, go to patienteducation.stanford.edu/programs/cdsmp.html.

Doctor's Viewpoint

John A. Flynn, MD, MBA, MEd, FACR, FACP, Medical Director, Spondyloarthritis Center; Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

As the CDC study points out, many people with arthritis don’t get a check-up on their mental health status—and they should. Arthritis can lead to emotional stress, so treating your physical symptoms may not be enough to help you feel better.

If you suffer from arthritic pain, don’t put off talking with your doctor about being evaluated for anxiety or depression, especially if you think you have symptoms. Your doctor will make sure you get properly screened, and he or she can recommend treatment and coping mechanisms that can significantly improve your quality of life.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 26 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 26 Jul 2013