How Does Arthritis Impact Mental Health?

Many forms of arthritis are associated with increased risk of developing a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. Your risk depends on several other factors such as the severity of your arthritis, your pain levels, your age, gender, and even how experts measure the mental health issue. 

At Apex Medical Center, our staff of highly trained experts know that chronic pain can affect your mental health, and that the reverse is true as well — having a mental health disorder can increase your sensitivity to pain. We can help you navigate the difficulties of arthritis and mental health

The numbers

More than 20% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. The number of them with mental health problems is somewhat unclear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five people with arthritis has symptoms of anxiety or depression. How a study is conducted, who participates, their ages, and other things have an impact on the results. 

The Arthritis Foundation suggests the range of two to ten times more likely for considering the risk a person with arthritis has of developing a mental health disorder when compared to the general population. 

Why arthritis can lead to mental health disorders

Scientists don’t know exactly why, but it’s long been observed that the higher your pain levels, the higher your chance of developing depression or anxiety. There’s clearly some connection between pain and mental health. 

One of the simplest explanations is that living with chronic pain is stressful. Even normal, everyday tasks can be difficult. Chronic stress raises the levels of certain hormones, which affect your mood. 

Another possibility is that the two conditions feed off of each other. You develop depression because you’re in pain, and the pain then increases your sensitivity to pain. Depression can also change your perceptions, leading to an overall more negative mindset. 

There’s developing evidence that inflammation may be related to mental health as well. One of the hallmark symptoms of arthritis is inflamed joints. 

Finally, having arthritis can cause a cascade of lifestyle changes that may also impact your mental health. For example, fatigue can be a symptom of arthritis, and when you’re tired and in pain, you may not feel like exercising. Exercise is an important mental health management tool for many people. 

Similarly, arthritis can disrupt your sleep, and a lack of high quality sleep is associated with numerous poor health outcomes, including developing or worsening anxiety or depression. 


Sometimes people think that anxiety is normal and don’t seek treatment, or they don’t realize that they are depressed rather than just experiencing a normal period of the blues. Getting treatment for mental health disorders is important, especially when you have an existing condition such as arthritis. 

If you have the following symptoms, talk to your doctor: 

Getting help if you think you may have anxiety or depression is important. Our staff includes experts who treat arthritis and who treat mental health disorders. Our experience and knowledge can help you manage your conditions so that you have the best possible quality of life. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your concerns about mental health and arthritis.

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