How Chronic Illness and Depression Are Linked

How Chronic Illness and Depression Are Linked

Depression is a condition in which a person feels sad and hopeless for an extended period. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is common among young people and adults, affecting 280 million individuals or 3.8 percent of the entire population.

Depression is deadly and, therefore, should be addressed immediately with the help of a mental health professional. Without intervention, it can lead to suicide, killing over 700,000 people globally every day. Suicide is the fourth most common cause of death among the 15–29 age group.

Multiple factors cause depression. Most of the time, it occurs after significant life changes, such as the death of a loved one or moving to another state or country. Many people diagnosed with depression have a family history of mental health conditions. Loneliness is another possible and common reason behind depression, especially among seniors.

In addition, some people suffer from depression after being diagnosed or living with chronic illnesses.

Chronic Illness and Depression

Most illnesses occur and then disappear, often with medication and therapy. The common cold lasts for about a week. The flu causes symptoms for seven days or longer after the patient is exposed to the virus. People who have caught the COVID-19 virus typically recover within two to six weeks. Even cancer is considered cured after five years of remission.

However, some illnesses last for a long time and, often, cannot be eliminated. While medication and lifestyle changes help the management of symptoms, the sickness does not disappear no matter how long the time has passed since diagnosis. Some examples of chronic illness that can lead to depression include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lupus, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis (MS), and HIV and AIDS.

The shock from the diagnosis can cause depression. Moreover, adjusting to a lifetime of illness and treatment can make a person feel hopeless. In addition, illness can restrict a person’s ability to move. They need mobility aids to go from one place to another or have a chaperon whenever they have to go out in case they experience symptoms.

Others cannot meet their friends or loved ones because of their symptoms. People who have chronic fatigue, for example, feel so tired that they cannot do even the simplest tasks. They lack the energy to celebrate.

Illnesses cause tremendous amounts of stress. If it goes on for a long time, it can lead to a higher risk of depression.

Treatment for Chronic Illness-Related Depression

Illness needs to be addressed. The only way to find relief from symptoms is by speaking to a specialist who can recommend the appropriate treatment. For example, people who have chronic fatigue should look for treatment centers that can understand their condition and look for the root cause of the problem. Unfortunately, many doctors still do not see chronic fatigue as a physical disorder. However, a specialist can recommend the right treatment.

In most cases, relief from symptoms will decrease the severity of the patient’s depression. They can regain a semblance of normalcy without the symptoms of their illness holding them back.

Some medications are known to cause depression. Suppose the patient is showing signs of depression after starting a specific medication. In that case, the doctor can recommend an alternative that will reduce or eliminate side effects.

However, those who continue to have depression despite treatment need to consult a mental health professional. Depression is now a different problem from chronic illness and requires a separate treatment.

If the mental health professional diagnoses depression in the patient, medication and therapy can be recommended. People who are clinically depressed often have to take prescription antidepressant medications. In addition, they might also have to undergo talk therapy to parse through their emotions and journey with chronic illness. The combination of medication and therapy usually leads to faster recovery.

Learning to Live with Chronic Illness

People who are suffering from chronic illnesses are prone to depression. Still, they can recover from it and live a full life despite their health condition.

The first and most important key is to surround yourself with a loving and supportive circle. No matter how monumental they seem, challenges are less horrible when family and friends are around to help you. If for some reason, you do not have people in your life who you trust, you can meet others who suffer from the same illnesses by joining support groups. These groups are found online and in real life.

Moreover, patients with chronic illnesses have to stick with their treatment and live a healthy lifestyle.


Being diagnosed with a life-long illness can be a shock and lead to depression. Depression caused by a chronic illness should never be ignored. Despite the hopelessness the patient feels, it is possible to be better physically and emotionally through treatment.

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