Sustaining sound mental health is a challenge for everyone, given the pandemic and other global affairs. However, maintaining mental health can be even more challenging for people battling chronic illnesses such as cancer or kidney diseases. Based on your stage and prognosis of the disease, a patient has to face additional stressors in their life that affect their mental health adversely. The feeling of giving up so many things, making heavy compromises and adjustments can seem impossible at the beginning. To spread awareness regarding mental health during kidney disease and other chronic conditions, we will talk about what they can experience and how to get the help needed.
The more advanced the stage of renal failure, the worse a person’s mental health is hit. If a patient is on dialysis, they may go through bouts of stress. Some of these stress-inducing situations may involve:
Dealing with the treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD can cause a sensation of being physically sick, which can leave a mark on the person's mental health and capacity to handle tense situations. Additionally, mental illness can also cause psychosomatic effects, which can make your kidney disease worse. There is a delicate balance between physical and psychological health as they are interlinked. Feeling mentally unwell can impact your dietary habits, sleep cycle, energy levels, and your capacity to stay on the course of the prescribed treatment. In short, a person diagnosed with CKD needs to maintain their physical and mental health for the sake of their overall well-being.
Depression refers to a mental health disorder that creates a negative outlook on how one feels, thinks, and acts. It is different from sadness since depression leads you to lose your spark and avoid the things you once found fun. Since depression can look different on everyone, the symptoms also vary from person to person. While some people sleep a lot and withdraw from social circles, others may have insomnia and seem completely normal on the outside. A few common symptoms of depression may look like:
It is important to note that feeling low and sad due to a health condition is normal. Upon processing these emotions healthily, a person can come to terms with their diagnosis and begin their transition. However, if they display the traits above, it is essential to speak with them and get them the aid they need through professional counseling as soon as possible. Depression is often layered with other mental health disorders. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts while dealing with kidney disease, please do not ignore the minor signs.
Anxiety is also a mental health disorder that causes a fight, flight, or freeze reaction in your body due to stress or trauma. While our bodies are equipped to prepare for true threats, anxiety puts the adrenal glands and mind on overdrive, inducing a constant state of panic or fear- these thoughts that cause anxiety may be what-ifs attached to very unrealistic scenarios but cause a physical and mental reaction as if the danger is real. Dealing with anxiety and anxiety attacks can take some time and an empathetic approach.
It is also common to see people self-medicate and take more of the painkiller prescription than recommended, getting addicted to them.
If you are on dialysis, the pain can impact the quality of well-being, but it is necessary to stick to the medication dosage as prescribed. Also, while drugs and alcohol may numb negative emotions temporarily, they cause significant damage to the kidneys as they have to work overtime to filter your blood and remove toxins.
Getting professional help for mental health depends on the severity of your diagnosis and the course of action that will work best. There are multiple approaches available that involve a combination of therapy and medicine. Mental health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, therapists, or counselors are trained to deal with any case they come across. If you are hesitant to reach out and don’t know where to start, you can reach out to a close friend, a family member, your doctor, or a trusted person to talk about therapy and get recommendations. Once the mental health professional diagnoses you, you will be prescribed medication only if necessary. Therapy is deeply stigmatized but is a relief to billions all over the world. Do not assume the worst of your kidney disease diagnosis; there is always light at the end of the tunnel and there is help available.