a person deals with disability and depression

When Disability Leads to Depression

One day you’re working, and then you’re not. Whether it’s from an injury or a chronic illness, developing a disability as an adult leads to plenty of challenges. You find yourself unable to work or enjoy the activities you love. Sometimes this shift is temporary, but in some cases, it’s permanent. Either way, disability can generate negative feelings and, for many individuals, depression. If you have both a disability and depression, our depression treatment program can help. Call Recovery Ranch TN today at 1.844.876.7680 to learn more about our treatment options. 

What Is Depression?

Depression is a significant mental health disorder that involves persistent feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness. Physical symptoms are common as well and often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain with no apparent cause
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive problems
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions

Sleep problems are common as well. Many individuals who are battling depression struggle with insomnia, while others sleep excessively.

Disability definitely raises depression risk; however, depression can also make the disability worse. For example, depression can make it more difficult for you to take proper care of your health. You are more likely to miss important appointments, such as a doctor’s visit or physical therapy. You may neglect to take your medications as directed. The result is a cycle in which the injury or illness triggers depression, making the disabling condition worse.

Disability and Depression Risk

Several risk factors increase the potential for depression, and living with a disability is one of those. A study of younger individuals who had experienced a mild stroke found they had a much higher proportion of problems with anxiety and depression than those who hadn’t had a stroke. 

Living with a chronic disorder also raises the risk for depression. For example, Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative condition that limits mobility, has been linked to depression, especially among those diagnosed at a younger age. Traumatic brain injury is another condition often linked to an increased risk for depression. Veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq and suffered a brain injury showed high rates of several mental health disorders, including depression.

Why Disability Leads to Depression

There are several reasons why becoming disabled can make an individual vulnerable to depression. The disability – a loss in and of itself – leads to other painful losses as well, which is a common theme in each of the following.

Loss of a Life Direction or Purpose 

Many individuals work hard to achieve a certain career goal. Acquiring a disability that no longer allows you to work at that job significantly impacts your direction in life and may also impact your sense of purpose. For example, an airline pilot whose vision becomes seriously impaired is no longer able to fly. Such a devastating loss can easily open the door to depression, particularly if that was the only career they had ever wanted. 

In addition, the painful loss of a sense of purpose affects many disabled individuals who were formerly the primary breadwinner in the home. When you’re no longer able to provide for your family, it’s not unusual to develop the lingering helplessness or frustration that leads to depression. Feelings of worthlessness, another common symptom of depression, can begin to take a firm grip. 

Decrease in Self-Esteem 

Becoming disabled affects how you perceive and feel about yourself and your place in society. A study of individuals with traumatic brain injury revealed they had lower levels of self-esteem and higher levels of depression than healthy individuals. Some disabled individuals lack confidence in controlling their bodies and managing their lives adequately. The loss of autonomy can take a severe toll on self-esteem. 

Sadness, Anger, or Frustration over Career Loss or Changes 

A disability prevents you from doing your previous job, but it isn’t always severe enough to keep you out of the workforce entirely. Feeling forced to take a job that isn’t as challenging, fulfilling, prestigious, or well-paying can elicit negative feelings such as:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Resentment

For example, a heart surgeon unable to operate because of a serious hand injury is still able to teach medical students. However, they may regard that as less fulfilling than saving lives. A teaching position also isn’t going to pay nearly as much, which means the former surgeon may have to make substantial lifestyle changes. 

The Struggle of Living with a Disability 

Quality of life often decreases after a significant injury or illness, especially when it limits the ability to perform routine daily activities. A serious brain injury, for instance, requires a person to relearn any number of tasks. In some cases, they simply aren’t able to relearn critical functions. Likewise, a disability such as vision loss completely changes how someone lives. A newly blind person must learn how to navigate a dark world, losing at least some independence in the process. 

Feeling Bored

Some disabilities leave a person housebound, with few opportunities to interact with others. You may find yourself at home alone all day while your spouse is at work or confined to an assisted living center where community activities don’t match your interests. Boredom fosters negative emotions, including loneliness and frustration, which can trigger symptoms of depression. 

Treatment for Disability-Related Depression

Treatment is imperative if you’ve developed depression or are starting to notice symptoms. Research has shown that if the first episode of depression goes untreated, you’ll have a 50 percent chance of experiencing a recurrence. Furthermore, an untreated episode can last from six months to a year and possibly much longer. 

A skilled therapist can help you work through the issues contributing to your depression. Doing so will help you learn to manage your life better and cope effectively with the emotional challenges of living with a disability. 

Depression is usually treated with a combination of talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, antidepressant medication. These medications are intended to rebalance brain chemistry, enabling you to focus on learning healthy ways to manage negative emotions. 

Therapy for Disability and Depression

Therapy can address the need for new expectations. For example, you may no longer be able to work long days like you once did or perform basic household tasks. A therapist will work with you to develop a sense of the new normal, allowing you to feel less stress and anxiety about meeting previous expectations. 

The Importance of Proper Medical Care

It’s also essential to receive good medical care for your disability. Proper management of an injury or chronic illness will increase your quality of life, reducing your risk for depression. Investigate all possible legitimate treatments for your particular condition, including alternative therapies such as:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture 
  • Chiropractic care

In addition, the isolation of disability often makes depression symptoms worse, so it’s also vital to receive support. Accept help when it’s offered, and find supportive friends or family members to spend time with regularly. If you don’t have local loved ones to lean on, seek out other support networks. For example, a self-help group focused on disability or depression will connect you to others living through the same struggles.

Disability is challenging enough to cope with; developing related depression will make your life even more difficult. Fortunately, treatment is available. Contact a mental health professional so you can begin to take action toward managing your disability and depression.

Seek Support at The Ranch TN

If you or a loved one is struggling with disability and depression, The Ranch TN can help. Our world-class mental health treatment program offers a variety of therapeutic approaches to address the unique needs of each client. These include evidence-based therapies such as

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Life skills training
  • Motivational interviewing

To learn more about how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing and recovery, call us today at 1.844.876.7680. We can help you cope with disability and depression.

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