Is There A Link Between Lupus And Anxiety?

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder affecting different body parts, including the skin, joints, kidneys, and brain. Lupus tends to run in families, and researchers have identified several gene variations that may increase the risk of developing the condition, per a 2019 review published in the journal Cells. Hormonal factors and exposure to certain environmental triggers, such as infections, sunlight, and silica dust, may also play a role in the development of lupus, says the Lupus Foundation of America. 

The immune system attacks healthy tissues and organs in people with lupus, leading to inflammation and damage throughout the body, per the Mayo Clinic. The symptoms vary from person to person and include joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, skin lesions, shortness of breath, fever, and dry eyes. There are concerns about whether anxiety is also a symptom of lupus. Anxiety disorders are a common mental health condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, and apprehension.

What is the association between lupus and anxiety?

While lupus and anxiety may seem unrelated, research suggests that there may be a link between the two. One 2017 study published in the journal BMC Psychiatry found that people with lupus had a high risk of anxiety and depression. Another 2022 study published in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy reiterates this claim. The researchers found that people with lupus were more likely to experience anxiety than those without the condition.

The exact reasons for the link between lupus and anxiety are not yet fully understood, but several potential explanations exist. For example, people with lupus may experience physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety, as suggested in a 2022 study published in the International Journal of Rheumatology. Managing a chronic illness like lupus may also lead to anxiety. According to Lupus UK, some steroid medications like prednisolone may also trigger or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with lupus. However, while there may be a link between lupus and anxiety, not everyone with lupus will experience anxiety.

How is lupus-related anxiety treated?

If you have lupus, it's best to work closely with your doctor, who can develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both your physical and mental health needs. Treatment for anxiety in people with lupus may include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or a combination of both, according to Lupus UK. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. It is a widely used and effective form of therapy that helps treat various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health conditions, per the American Psychological Association.

In addition to therapy, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, stress management techniques, and healthy eating habits may also help manage anxiety symptoms, explains Lupus UK. Antidepressants may also help regulate mood and reduce anxiety, according to the source. However, it's important to note that these medications can have side effects and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.