There’s no denying the fact that physical health and mental health go hand in hand. Numerous research studies have shown that people with disabilities or chronic physical illnesses many times develop mental health problems as well. Unfortunately, because treating a person often times focuses on what can be seen as it is with a physical disability, the unseen, or an accompanying mental condition, stands a real possibility of going undetected or untreated.
Consider the following:
- 20% to 30% of patients with coronary heart disease or congestive heart failure suffer from depression. This depression is so pronounced that the American Heart Association has recommended that all cardiac patients should be screened for it.
- 25% of people with diabetes suffer from some form of depression which increases the risk of mortality by 30% in diabetics.
- Half of all people with advanced or terminal cancer suffer from poor mental heath, including anxiety, depression or adjustment disorders, but less than half of these patients get treatment for these mental health issues.
Understanding that depression and other mental health issues are likely to be present when you are disabled is the first step in understanding that you may need to be treated.
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As a caregiver or as a disabled person, there are several specific warning signs you should watch for related to ongoing mental health issues:
- Are there work related or financial issues?
- Is pain and pain management a reoccurring problem?
- Are there worries about children in the family?
- Is the disabled person stressed about adding another layer to an already complex medical situation?
- Is there a perceived stigma about seeking psychiatric care?
- Is there a noticeable change in appetite, sleep patterns, energy levels, concentration levels or in the ability to enjoy things in life?
- Does the disabled person have an adequate support system in place at home and with medical doctors?
If a number of these changes are present, medical professionals will strongly recommend that the disabled person should be screened for depression and other related conditions.
By itself, depression is a chronic and disabling condition, but when combined with other disabilities, it can lead to an even more challenging poor quality of life, decreased ability to function, less of an ability for a disabled person to provide quality care for themselves and higher healthcare and morbidity rates.
Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for the disabled who also suffer from depression related illnesses.
Antidepressant medications are often prescribed to help a patient improve their mood and lessen sleep problems. Antidepressants help the key brain chemicals norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine work better with the circuitry of the brain.
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There are several types of medications that a doctor can prescribe to meet this need, helping each patient find the one that works the best and offers the fewest side effects. Some of the most common antidepressants that are prescribed include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Duloxetine (Cybalta)
In addition to antidepressants, doctors may also prescribe anti-anxiety drugs or medicines for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia when warranted.
In many instances, a doctor will also prescribe psychotherapy as a course of treatment. Over the course of time, a patient will meet with a trained mental health worker such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a social worker to talk through their issues. The mental health worker will help the patient identify the symptoms of their depression, the root causes if other than the illness, and most important, work together to create strategies to change thinking that will minimize the depression.
One other strategy that may be employed seems obvious but is worth mentioning. Often times, doctors will prescribe good old fashioned exercise if a patient has the physical capacity. Doctors concluded a long time ago that exercise is a highly effective course of treatment for depression that works just as well as medicines or psychotherapy in many instances.