About 20% of people who suffer from asthma also suffer from depression. Asthmatics who either don't receive care or receive inadequate care for their asthma symptoms are more likely to experience depression as a result of the day-to-day limitations that may result from uncontrolled asthma.
What are the Signs of Depression and How is it Related to Asthma?
Signs of depression include:
- Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or too little
- Changes in appetite
- Loss of interest in or lack of ability to perform daily activities
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Difficulty concentrating
These changes can cause problems with daily routines and difficulty in caring for oneself. When depressed, asthma patients are less likely to follow their prescribed medication and self-care program. In turn, this neglect can cause asthma symptoms to worsen, which causes depression to worsen, creating a vicious cycle.
Children who have asthma are as prone to depression as adults. Missing school, being unable to play with other children, and having to go to the emergency room for an asthma attack can cause a child to feel helpless.
Researchers have also found that people with asthma often have poor self-esteem, blaming themselves for their asthma attacks. This can result in never trying to get better, which can affect your ability to control your asthma and leads to depression.
How is Depression Treated?
Many medications are available that can effectively treat depression. Research has shown that a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (i.e, talk therapy) works best to combat depression. Antidepressants usually begin to work within several weeks. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing a person's thoughts and behaviors.
Support groups also may be helpful for people suffering from asthma. In a support group, patients can share their experiences – both with asthma and depression – and also learn effective coping skills, such as relaxation techniques, positive affirmations and assertiveness.
Asthma management programs also focus on behavior, which can improve both your physical and emotional health. These programs can make a big difference in your life. With the proper use of prescribed medications and lifestyle changes, asthma can be well controlled and you can lead a normal life with few, if any, restrictions.
What are Some More Ways to Cope With Depression for People With Asthma?
- Stay connected. The support of family and friends is important in coping with a chronic illness such as asthma, as well as coping with depression. Family and friends can provide emotional support, encourage activity and independence, assist with household chores and other errands if necessary, and encourage a treatment plan. People without a strong social network should start building one.
- Remain active. Continue to pursue longstanding activities, hobbies and interests, or take time to delve into new ones.
- Be informed. Learn as much as possible about both asthma and depression. Knowledge can impart a sense of self-control and also ensure the best treatment possible. Ask a doctor for referrals to community resources.
- Build a strong healthcare team. Patients should have doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals whom they trust and with whom they feel comfortable speaking.
- Check medications. Some bronchodilators can actually cause depression, and if this is suspected, then a physician should be consulted about alternatives.
- Explore complementary therapies. Alternative or complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga and guided imagery, are frequently helpful in promoting a sense of well-being.
- Don't wait to ask for assistance. People who are depressed should seek help quickly to regain their psychological health.
Learn More About Aspects of Asthma & Depression
- Asthma Treatment Overview
- Tips for Living Well With Asthma
- What Is Depression?
- Tips for Living With Depression
- Join a Depression Support Group Online
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