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“Some studies suggest that up to 40% of people with a chronic illness such as diabetes, leukaemia, chronic asthma, and heart problems have elevated symptoms of depression.

“They are also more likely to suffer from relapses,” Ms Cotter said.

“People with chronic illnesses are challenged to face the reality of their illness and the anxiety that comes with it. They are also faced with the problems that it places on everyday living such as monitoring and self-treatment and the effect it can have on relationships.”

For people with a chronic illness, depression can interfere with their ability to manage their illness. Poor sleep, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and loss of interest in life can lead to people taking a less active approach to self-care and illness management.

Ms Cotter said despite the high prevalence of depression, studies suggest that it is still underdiagnosed in many people with chronic illnesses.
“This underdiagnosis could be because symptoms of depression mimick some of the symptoms that people with a chronic illnesses experience such as fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns, weight, and appetite.”

“These symptoms are often solely attributed to the illness, and the possible presence of depression is not considered.”

Because of the overlap of symptoms of depression, Ms Cotter says that diagnosing depression in people with chronic illnesses needs careful assessment.

Psychologists and other caregivers generally diagnose depression in people with chronic illness by carefully assessing various symptoms through interviews, psychometric testing, behavioural observation, and ongoing monitoring.

People with depression respond well to psychological treatment, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Ms Cotter says evidence-based CBT is used effectively to treat depression by changing thought patterns and people’s behaviour which can contribute to depression.

In our last newsletter, we looked at some of the symptoms of depression and the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy in treating it. For more information on depression and treating it with CBT, please contact us.

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