If you suffer from osteoarthritis, you’re likely familiar with the many ways it interrupts your physical day to day life. What you may still be learning, however, is how these changes affect your emotional health and relationships. According to research done by Aurora Sherman at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine, the effects of chronic knee pain on social relationships are complicated. It’s not uncommon for people diagnosed with a long-term condition like arthritis to also suffer from depression. And while there are many positives to be said for a support structure in the form of family and friends, a long-term illness can also take a toll on them.
Osteoarthritis & Depression
Unsurprisingly, there’s a direct link between the amount of pain a patient with arthritis reports feeling and the depth of their depression. Not only do they feel increased physical discomfort, it’s often more difficult to seek out their support structure for help. This downward spiral can make people feel helpless and isolated from loved ones. Though it’s difficult to take that first step, seeking help from people who care, or even professionals in the mental health field, is often a game changer. And with so many new ways to connect — from appointments with a therapist over the phone to face time with your best friend across the country — you don’t have to feel as limited anymore.
Social Support with Osteoarthritis
It’s not all bad news with a chronic pain condition like osteoarthritis! Studies have shown that social factors are huge motivators for starting and continuing physical activity, which is important for slowing the effects of the condition. It can be difficult to drag yourself out of bed under the
best circumstances — and that was before you had arthritis. Fitness classes that are appropriate for your medical limitations, such as water aerobics or gentle walks, are easier to accomplish with friends or family participating alongside you.
New Opportunities for Social Interactions
While this may not be the opportunity you were looking for, seeking out social groups who understand what you’re going through can be helpful. Maybe it’s a book club that focuses on inspirational novels, or a fitness class for older adults. Finding people you feel comfortable talking to about your osteoarthritis symptoms could help you feel less isolated and alone.