Asthma and Depression
Depression is a sensitive subject that often feels taboo for those who need to talk about it most. The irony is, that it's more common than we would like to think; affecting more people each year as external factors pile more psycho-social stress on our shoulders. This is an article to promote the conversation about depression, it’s association with asthma, and how we can take steps out of depression.
A recent and relevant read on asthma and depression
Many asthmatics report their asthma worsening with age, adults seem to have more difficult asthma management than younger asthmatics and also a higher likelihood of depression. A recent study being conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai seeks to gain a better understanding of why this might be. With $3.4 million in funding, the study has its sights set on understanding the correlation between depression and asthma complications with adults.
There hasn't been much research in this niche, yet, this is a pretty new research domain. However, prior research by the same institution has shown that older asthmatics, co-diagnosed with depression, are twice as likely to hospitalized with asthma-related complications. In addition, 36% of asthmatics over the age of 55 express symptoms of depression and as many as 50% report not adhering to medication regiments.1 Hopefully, with the larger sample size of 400 English and Spanish speakers, over 60 years old, we will gain more insight into how depression and older-aged asthma correlate so strongly.
Symptoms of depression
Depression doesn’t only effect older generations and sometimes it can be difficult to identify. Here are some symptoms that have been associated with depression, taken from mayoclinic.org and helpguide.org:2,3
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in daily activities like: hobbies, social activities or sex
- Appetite or weight changes
- Sleep changes like insomnia or oversleeping
- Anger or increased irritability
- Loss of energy, easily fatigued or lack of motivation
- Self-loathing or feelings of guilt
- Reckless behavior; sometimes expressed as substance abuse, compulsive gambling or dangerous activity
- Concentration or memory problems
- Unexplained physical pains such as: headaches, muscle soreness, stomach pains or back pain
- Feelings or thoughts of suicide
My asthma and depression
I struggled with depression through middle school, high school, and my first years of college. My asthma played a huge role in the development of depression and certainly helped it stick around. It would kept me from feeling “normal”, giving me difficulty running the mile in PE or holding me back from playing outside at certain times of the year. I didn’t like to concern people with my asthma and was frustrated with having to deal with it.
So I often tried to keep my depression to myself, until it got too bad and then I was back to the hospital again. My motivation to study, play sports, and hang out with friends was a rollercoaster that often had long troughs and small peaks. Looking back, I didn’t understand why I felt so lethargic and melancholy. Now I know that is was always depression.
Lights in the darkness
The first thing that helped me elevate myself out of the depressive hole I was in, was my sister. She was studying psychology at the time, noticed the signs, and recommended that I see a therapist. They were honest and showed me the correlation between my asthma, childhood anxieties, and lingering depression.
With their suggestion, I tried finding a new activity that was based in positivity and being grateful. So, I went and tried my first yoga class with my mom at age 19. This was the start of my yoga practice, which is still an integral part of my life. Within a couple months, I touched my toes for the first time I could remember; something I thought never possible. I was grateful and sincerely happy to see progress in my life.
It was then that I saw a connection between feeling grateful and feeling better. With that thought, I intentionally tried to be grateful for anything and everything I could. As I started rock climbing, it became an endless well of gratitude; the physical and mental progression paired with being out in nature was what I really needed. It was a slow and hard transition. I still have depressive days, but I am feeling better both emotionally and with my asthma.
The world piles a lot of weight on us over time and many people, of all ages, feel depression. For those of us managing asthma, there’s a whole other world of stressors put upon us and it’s ok to feel low under that weight. However, it’s also ok to want to pick yourself back up and seek out some help in doing that.
If you feel like you want to talk to someone about how you are doing emotionally and mentally, you should seek out a licensed psychologist. It was one of the better decisions I have ever made for my health. Every new day is a chance to start new habits. Thank you for reading and I hope you find light in your life.
Have you experienced symptoms of depression before?
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?