Depression and Chronic Illness: Which Comes First?
Which comes first—depression or chronic illness? While the connection works both ways, one thing's for sure: treatment can make a difference. Jennifer was 26 years old when her doctor diagnosed her with high blood pressure. It wasn't until she learned that she also suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome that she began her slide into depression. Like many other people with chronic illnesses, she hid her depression from her doctor, even as she underwent fertility treatments and a high-risk pregnancy. "It's so hard to deal with a chronic illness," says Jennifer, now 29. "Many people are afraid to admit that they need help."After the birth of her son, she broke down and told her doctor of her depressive symptoms—her self-imposed isolation from others, withdrawal from relationships, sleeplessness, and feelings of hopelessness. He helped her understand that like her other chronic conditions, her depression was not her fault. She began taking an antidepressant, and her outlook improved."It has helped tremendously," she explains. "I needed it to keep things in perspective for me, which it did."
When Illness Triggers DepressionWhen faced with a potentially life-changing diagnosis of a chronic condition, it can be easy for depression to set in.When someone is diagnosed with an illness, it is not uncommon to feel helpless or alone. Depression is easy to overlook in part because some of its symptoms, like fatigue or change in energy levels, mimic those of some chronic illnesses.