Lupus: Support and Survival

Lupus and Depression

When the doctor asks, "Are you depressed?"
Depression is a natural reaction to major illnesses. You do not need to be a martyr and try to muddle through life without help. There are options available to a patient that will keep you from suffering needlessly.

Depression not only affects the patient, but affects the relationships between a patient and their family, co-workers, and friends as well. The life of the patient may be in danger if the depression is not controlled and the patient becomes suicidal.

Depression can be controlled.

When a doctor asks you if you are depressed .. just be honest. It is normal to be depressed when faced with some life situations and there is no stigma in admitting to being unable to cope.

When a doctor asks "Are you depressed?", it can seem a stupid and redundant question to a patient with a major illness. But there are a few reasons why even smart doctors ask that question. Let me lay out a few of the good reasons for you.

 1.  Patient has been prescribed antidepressants.
        So the Doctor asks, “Are you depressed?”  Patient says “No.”

    A. The doctor now knows this is an effective antidepressant drug and dosage to start with in case the patient becomes depressed in the future.

    B. The doctor asks if things are going better for the patient. The doctor often doesn't know about things like kids in crisis, marital problems, financial difficulties affecting the patient's mood. If these have improved, depression may have lifted enough for patient to have a lower dose, and generally the fewer meds the better for a lupus patient.

    C. The doctor helps monitor lupus status this way. When the illness is stable or better, a patient is usually less depressed, so it is a quick starter question before going through each group of physical symptoms.

2.  Patient has not been prescribed antidepressants.
        So the Doctor asks, “Are you depressed?”  Patient says “No.”

    A.  The doctor may want to ask the patient how they are coping with chronic disease to learn some things that might help this, or other patients, in the future.

    B.  Depression symptoms mirror some lupus symptoms, so lupus disease could be improving.

3.  Patient has been prescribed antidepressants.
        So the Doctor asks, “Are you depressed?”  Patient says “Yes.”

    A.  The patient may need a stronger dosage. Most antidepressants have a wide range of dosages, and most doctors start at the lowest possible dosage. Non-psychiatrists tend to start at much lower dosages than psychiatrists out of sheer lack of knowledge, experience, and the fear they may overdose the patient.

    B.  The patient may need a different antidepressant drug altogether. There are many types of medications that reduce depression. They work in different ways and have different side effects. Some are not indicated for patients with other problems, such as  high blood pressure. Some are simply newer. So if you are on one drug and you are still depressed, it might be time to try another drug.

    C.  The patient may need a combination of antidepressant drugs. Some antidepressants are coupled with sleeping pills to help with the insomnia that tends to develop with Lupus.

    D.  The doctor really wants to know if patient is suicidal. Asking a patient if they are suicidal, whether from pain, depression, anger, or whatever, is a very hard question to lead with.  “Are you depressed” is a lot gentler place to start. The doctor can then branch off into reasons and depth of the depression.

    E.  The doctor needs to check out those lupus symptoms that mimic depression, and then check out other lupus symptoms to see if lupus has worsened.

4.  Patient has not been prescribed antidepressants.
        So the Doctor asks, “Are you depressed?”  Patient says “Yes.”

    A.  The doctor needs to learn if the patient has ever had significant emotional illness before diagnosis of chronic physical disease.

    B.  The doctor needs to figure out how much physical disease is impacting on the patient's mood. Some people cope better with chronic problems than do others.

    C.  The doctor should consider prescribing antidepressant medication.

Depression is nothing to be ashamed of and there is help available.
Ask for help before the depression becomes life threatening.

© June 2002 Mary N. Summers, Ph.D. and Brenda "Rion" Sewell

Contact the Lupus Foundation of America or the local Chapter that serves your area for more information about lupus, or the programs and services the LFA offers including support group information and physician referral.

Lupus Foundation of America., Inc.
1300 Piccard Drive, Suite 200
Rockville, MD 20850-4303
301-670-9292  800-558-0121

Information gathered from :

Searching for  ways to deal with the depression, the frustrations, the questions about lupus, I joined a support group online.  LUPIES has been a wonderful gift.  I have learned more from the information I found on the support web site from other sufferers of Lupus than I did from my doctor.
Thank you fellow Lupies!    With a very special thank you to Deanna!
May your days be pain free!

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All literary works and original artwork by Rion on this page,
unless otherwise noted, are the sole property of Brenda Sewell.
I do not mind sharing but please ask me first.

© 1998 - 2004 Brenda "Rion" Sewell

Email me at brendarion at


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