Coming to Grips with a Chronic Disease
Chronic diseases, or diseases that are both recurring and long-lasting, are the single largest cause of disability and death in America. A “chronic” disease is one that is persistent, as opposed to a “recurring” disease that generally features periods of illness, alternating with periods of remission. Chronic diseases become a part of everyday life.
One of the first steps toward understanding chronic disease is recognizing its existence. When did a simple headache turn into a chronic illness, many early migraineurs ask themselves? The fact is, migraine disease is considered a chronic illness, and has been since the nature of this neurological disorder became better understood.
It isn't unusual for depression to occur in people with chronic health conditions like migraine. The realization that migraines may be with you for the rest of your life can be overwhelming. And depression may not always appear at diagnosis; long-term management of a chronic health condition can leave you burnt out, and if you're having difficulty finding a treatment regimen that works for you, frustration and discouragement may set in. These issues can set the stage for depression.
Symptoms of depression are not always easy to recognize. If someone is feeling sad or anxious most of the time, appears to have lost interest in activities that they used to enjoy, has less energy and appetite than usual, or has trouble sleeping, the chances are good that they are experiencing depression. And depression among chronic disease patients is not unusual. Some studies show that between 30 percent and 60 percent of all patients diagnosed with a chronic illness report having feelings of depression and anxiety.
Some of the symptoms of depression appear contradictory in nature. For example, either unintended weight gain or loss can be a sign of depression, as can excessive sleep or insomnia. Talk to your health care professional if you experience any of these symptoms.
The first step down the road to recovering from depression is acknowledging that depression exists and seeking help. Talk to your doctor about your feelings; she can refer you to a mental health professional or, in some cases, prescribe treatment herself. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available for depression, including medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. In some cases, minor lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and practicing good sleep hygiene can also help alleviate feelings of depression. These have the added bonus of also being positive lifestyle changes for migraine prevention.