What To Do When Youre Overwhelmed By Anxiety
I wish every person with a chronic illness and anxiety about it could understand one thing: You are not alone. It is so normal for people to feel like this and to think no one else could possibly understand what they are going through, Lawrence says.
You dont need to stay trapped in your cycle of worry and pain, she says. Start by reaching out to family and friends for support be honest about your anxiety as well as your physical symptoms.
However, if your anxiety is impacting your ability to live your daily life or follow your treatment plan, or is causing any of the severe symptoms mentioned above, you must reach out for professional help, Lawrence says. Start by talking to your rheumatologist or primary care doctor. If that doesnt help enough, ask for a referral to a mental health counselor and a psychiatrist who have experience with chronic illness, she says.
Here are some general health and mental health resources for your reference:
- If a mental health concern is an emergency for you or someone else, call 911.
- To find local support groups and services, call 1-800-950-NAMI or . The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM, EST.
The Consequences Of Stress Go Beyond Ra
Experiencing exceptional stress when you have RA may increase the risk for other serious health concerns. For instance, theres evidence that RA patients with higher levels of stress and anxiety are more likely to have atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty acids in the arteries and precursor to cardiovascular disease. Its also likely that stress ups the chance of depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal conditions among RA patients, says Dr. Askanase. Obviously, stress is bad for the body in general. Exactly how stress increases vulnerabilitydoes it lead to the production of more inflammatory molecules?is still being investigated.
Are Your Joints Thirsty
Dr. F. Batmanghelidj who studied many chronic and acute signals of dehydration in a stress filled environment in Iran has proposed that dehydration is one of the major causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
However, at present there is no clinical evidence whether or not dehydration is one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis or affects its progress.
His proposal suggests that even mild dehydration can trigger joint pain in some humans. Furthermore, chronic dehydration would lead to damage to the cartilage, inflammation and angiogenesis, which is consistent with being one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
I include it here as food for thought. Because of the theorys simplicity, it probably will not receive funding to be adequately tested in a clinical setting.
However, you may want to monitor your water intake in case that his theory of dehydration may be one of your causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
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Can Stress Relievers Alleviate Ra Symptoms
Researchers are also working to understand how modifying stress affects RA on a biological level.
In a review published online on Sep. 10, 2013, in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, author Manoj Sharma PhD, a professor at the University of Cincinnati found yoga to be a promising modality for arthritis. Of nine studies done between 2010 and June 2013, six showed positive changes in psychological and physiological outcomes related to arthritis, including pain. It relieves stress because your mind is not dwelling on things that are causing you anxiety and stress, Sharma explains, adding that this form of low-impact exercise also strengthens muscles and adds to the flexibility of joints.
Zautras research has also shown that mindfulness meditation, which focuses on acceptance and cognitive behavioral therapy, which works to combat negative thought patterns, can help people manage their RA pain. The mind is in the brain and the brain is in the body, so, if we change the way we think about something, it will have a physiological effect, Zautra says.
Can Food Allergies Or Sensitivities Trigger Or Aggravate Rheumatoid Arthritis
As early as 1993, some rheumatologists acknowledged that There are now sufficient good scientific studies, from the UK and abroad, to suggest that, at least in some patients with RA, dietary therapy may influence at least the symptoms and possibly the progression of the disease.
Recent scientific data shows that 3 of every 4 rheumatoid arthritis patients who eat foods that they are allergic to, experience significantly more stiffness, pain, tender and swollen joint counts, higher Ritchie’s articular index, sedimentation rate, C-Reactive Protein levels as well as higher TNF-alpha and IL-1 alpha levels.
Surprisingly, 1 out of 5 rheumatoid patients whose test results did not detect a food allergy still had worse pain when they ate certain foods.
In addition, several physicians of nutritional medicine or integrative medicine write that food allergies are one of the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
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Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Your Lungs
Another complication people experience is inflammation of the small airways in their lungs. This is called pulmonary fibrosis, and it can take many different forms .
While these lung complications are serious and may be life-limiting for some people, they dont usually kill someone with rheumatoid arthritis. Its not known why this complication occurs in some patients but not others.
The tissue in the lungs will eventually turn to scar tissue, which can lead to lung collapse. A buildup of fluid in the lungs can also be a problem.
Bronchiectasis can occur from excessive inflammation in the lungs.
The good news is that these lung complications are preventable or treatable with medications and other strategies like getting a flu shot every year, practicing healthy breathing habits, avoiding tobacco smoke, quitting smoking if youre a smoker, and wearing masks to avoid respiratory infections when possible.
Its also important not to overexert yourself so as not to overwork your already weakened immune system.
In many cases of rheumatoid arthritis in which pulmonary fibrosis develops, it can be treated with antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine .
These drugs have been shown in studies to help reverse progressive scarring at least partially among people who take them regularly for an extended time periodtypically six months
How To Deal With Rheumatoid Arthritis And Anxiety
Anxiety can be a powerful and negative emotion or state of being that you experience when you have rheumatoid arthritis . It may manifest itself in a variety of ways, due to the fact that your RA both makes you more vulnerable in terms of health complications and the fact that in general, the diagnosis of a disease can make one anxious.
This can be especially troubling if you are adjusting to life with RA, the possibility of disability and the uncertainty of the future. However, there are many things you can do to keep your anxiety at a manageable level.
Personally, I struggled with anxiety even before I was in constant pain. Although general anxiety and panic attacks dont necessarily go hand-in-hand with RA, a diagnosis or chronic pain main trigger it for those who are more prone to anxiety in general.
If you find you are suddenly beginning to have panic attacks or are having frequent racing thoughts, it is important to discuss this with your doctor, as he or she may be able to prescribe medication to help bring you to a calmer state.
Many people I have spoken to worry that anti-anxiety medication will make it so they can no longer feel, but this is simply not the case. Instead, the anti-anxiety medication will help you relax and cut down on panic attacks.
If your panic attacks are especially bad, you may also be prescribed something to help stop them while they are happening, which is extremely useful for getting over the hump of the most difficult parts.
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Accept Responsibility For What You Can Control
One of the predominant things arthritis steals from you is your sense of control of your life and your body. This can lead to a lot of fear and helplessness, which in turn can make your arthritis worse. Stop this anxiety by recognizing what you can control and taking responsibility for that, Dr. Larsen says. For instance, you may not be able to control your pain, but you can take charge of taking your medications exactly as prescribed and doing your physical therapy exercises, both of which may help lessen your pain.
Can Managing Stress Keep Ra Symptoms In Check
A link between stress and rheumatoid arthritis is commonly acknowledged. However, scientists continue to explore the connection between the nervous and immune systems and the effect on RA onset and progression. People with RA commonly report experiencing physical or emotional stress when first diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder like RA. However in a 2010 editorial in Arthritis Research & Therapy, Daniel Clauw, MD, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan , commented on a review of 16 studies on the stress-arthritis link. In his editorial, Dr. Clauw highlighted the verified link in animal models and the difficulty in proving a similar linear relationship in humans.
The reason its difficult is that it is hard to measure stress, and we know that not all types of stress are equally capable of affecting different individuals in the same way, explains Dr. Clauw.
But evidence of a connection remains an important focus among researchers. In the same editorial, Dr. Clauw referenced a study that found Vietnam combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder had an almost 17 percent higher risk for autoimmune diseases compared to those without PTSD. A 2009 study in Psychosomatic Medicine showed that people with two or more traumatic events in their childhood had a 100 percent higher risk for rheumatic diseases compared with people who didnt suffer childhood trauma.
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Ask For Help With Day
Recognizing that I couldnt do what I used to do and I needed to ask for help and that it is okay to need help was a huge relief for me, Rachel says. Let loved ones wash dishes, walk the dog, or do the laundry. Or hire someone who can help with housework during severe arthritis flares. This can help reduce anxiety that stems from feeling overwhelmed by your daily demands.
Rates Of Depression Anxiety And Bipolar Disorder Are Higher In People With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Researchers in Manitoba, Canada, studied more than 60,000 people with RA and healthy individuals. The incidence of depression was 45 percent higher in the RA group, anxiety was 25 percent higher, and bipolar disorder was 20 percent more common. While incidence rates for psychiatric disorders declined over a persons life regardless of their physical health, episodes of depression and anxiety were more frequent and lengthy in the RA group. We need to learn more about how mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are connected, says study author Carol Hitchon, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
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Can You Suddenly Develop Rheumatoid Arthritis
In a few people with RA about 5% to 10% the disease starts suddenly, and then they have no symptoms for many years, even decades. Symptoms that come and go. This happens to about 15% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. You may have periods of few or no problems that can last months between flare-ups.
Unlikely Things That Cause Joint Pain
When you think of causes of joint pain, most people go immediately to age, too much exercise, injury and arthritis.
However, did you know that these ten things can cause or increase your joint pain?
1. Anxiety. While there are many types, anxiety disorders share a general feature of excessive fear and as a result cause behavioral and functional disturbances. What you may not know is that joint pain is a complex symptom of anxiety. There are many reasons that people who have anxiety feel increased joint pain. Stress inflammation is one of the most common issues inside the body. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are molecules that can be released by many things, one being stress. When you have anxiety you experience long-term stress, and as a result your body continually produces these cytokine molecules. Inflammation caused by these molecules cause your joints to swell and ultimately leads to more pain in your movements.
3. Lack of Exercise. Staying active is one of the most important things you can do to combat joint pain and arthritis. I know it may sound counterintuitive, since moving often makes your joints hurt, why would you do it? Limiting your movements will weaken your muscles. So, by exercising you strengthen the muscles near your joints and increase your range of motion and flexibility.
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Hormone Havoc Triggers Symptoms
The hypothalamus also activates a second part of the stress response system, using the hormonal signals of the HPA axis, especially corticotropin-releasing hormone , which causes the body to increase its level of what we call the stress hormone: cortisol.
Cortisol is the most famous hormone in our bodily response to stress, and with good reason. Cortisol turns on and turns off various reactions in our body. For instance, it tamps down the digestive and reproductive systems while boosting glucose in our blood.
Cortisol also alters the response of our immune system, emphasizing substances that repair tissue over other immune reactions.
A Potential Biological Link
It turns out there may be a direct, biological connection between depression and RA.
The pain and joint damage of RA comes, in part, from inflammation. And theres evidence of a link between inflammation and depression. Levels of C-reactive protein , one of the ways researchers measure inflammation, are often higher in people with depression. A 2018 study found that CRP may be significantly higher in those whose depression is hard to treat.
Its too early to say that inflammation is a reason why many people experience both conditions. But the potential link is an important new focus of research.
The coexistence of mental illness with forms of arthritis is well-known, but people living with RA arent always screened. This can lead to untreated mental health conditions.
The study in the British Journal of General Practice noted that people may begin to think of their depression or anxiety as normal. They may also think doctors place more importance on treating the physical symptoms of RA rather than potentially related mental health conditions.
Some people may be nervous to discuss their mental health or concerned that their doctor may dismiss their mental symptoms. But finding the resources to manage your mental health effectively is vital to your overall well-being. Whether you speak to your doctor, seek out a therapist on your own, or contact a support group, there are many options to help you address your mental health.
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