When You’re Thrown For a Lup-us…Coping with Lupus

Sarah S. Goozeé, Ph.D.
Health & Pain Psychology

It's normal to be thrown for a Lup-us.  Living with an unpredictable chronic disease that can affect your ability to do what you want to do on any given day is not easy.  We enlisted health and pain psychologist Dr. Sarah Goozeé to offer ways to deal with the mood disorders like depression and anxiety all too common among people with lupus.  Watch the full presentation or read the short summary below for the main points of Dr. Goozeé’s talk.

The Facts
Lupus patients are 50% more likely to develop some type of psychological issue.

  • 91% of people with lupus report some symptoms of depression.
  • Depression can be caused by many factors: medication side effects, not enough vitamin D, chronic pain, not enough sleep, and inflammation in the brain from lupus.
  • Depression can cause pain, and pain can cause depression.

Treatments for Mood Disorders
Dr. Goozeé and many other experts recommend a combination of psychotherapy, medication and healthy lifestyle changes.

  • Psychotherapy includes learning tools to let go of worries, deal with unhealthy thinking, staying in the moment and ways to relax. May also include ways to deal with pain and stress as well as methods to improve sleep and nutrition.
  • Dr. Goozeé recommends cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy where improvement can be seen in months rather than years.
  • Medications include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs that help restore proper function of neurotransmitters in the brain.
    • Antidepressants can help deal with chronic pain and are not addictive like narcotics that relieve pain.
    • Finding the right medication for you can take trial and error so keep telling your healthcare provider how you’re feeling.

Taking Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is also a form of lupus treatment.  Self-care includes exercise, socialization, relaxation, laughter, sleep, nutrition and a regular routine that gives you a sense of purpose.

  • Exercise increases energy, promotes healthy sleep and increases endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever.
  • Being around other people is important – isolation can make depression worse.
  • Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, meditation and yoga, teach you to slow down your mind, relax your muscles and increases endorphins. Research has shown that meditation 20 minutes a day/four times a week can decrease pain by 40%!
  • Laughter is a proven medicine to reduce tension, stress, anxiety, and irritation. Laughter releases endorphins too and distracts you from pain. When you’re not thinking about the pain, the brain actually can experience less pain.
  • Sleep is important for the brain and immune system to function properly. When you sleep, your body and your muscles get to relax, also easing pain.
  • Lupus medications and depression can effect your weight. Extra pounds decrease immune system function, sleep and energy while increasing joint pain. Malnourishment can increase pain.
  • Maintain a regular routine that includes a balance of work, family, friends, volunteer work, spirituality, doctors and activities you enjoy.
  • Find meaning and a sense of purpose.

You are not just a lupus patient but a person who has lupus. Dr. Goozeé recommends getting back to those things that you enjoy, that identify who you are beyond lupus!

Sarah S. Goozeé, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, having obtained her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Health Psychology at California School of Professional Psychology in San Francisco. She developed the “Lupus Activity Scale (LAS),” a self-report measure that empowers patients and quantifies lupus disease activity; one of the first of its kind that is now being widely used to understand the connection of chronic pain and mood.