Managing emotions if you have arthritis

Person staring out of window

Depression and anxiety are common reactions for people living with arthritis. There are many things you can do to manage depression and anxiety. Remember, you are not alone. There are many resources to help if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Related: Managing arthritis resources

You may feel depressed or anxious about losses that you experienced due to living with arthritis. Some common losses are when:

  • You have to give up a sport, hobby, leisure activity or a job that you love
  • You have less money because of the medical costs related to your arthritis
  • Your feel like arthritis has turned you into a different person

Signs of depression

Depression is something that can sneak up on you. Beware of the following signs of depression:

  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Having little energy
  • Crying more easily
  • Having a hard time making decisions
  • Feeling lonely or isolated
  • Having little interest in sex
  • Feeling suicidal

Other warning signs

  • Being angry when your body can no longer do what you want it to do
  • Getting frustrated at having to ask for help
  • Feeling that you are a burden on others
  • Thinking things will never get better
  • Feeling overwhelmed by simple tasks or responsibilities

Managing emotional changes

Managing your emotions during a period of change can be difficult but remember you are not alone.

  • Recognize and grieve what has changed in your life due to your chronic condition.
  • Express your emotions in a way that feels safe – talk to others, journal, cry, laugh.
  • Don’t lose sight of the good things that remain or have come into your life.
  • Meet new challenges with a sense of humour.
  • Find someone or something that inspires you and from which you can gain strength.
  • Explore new passions and interests to replace what you have lost.
  • Get help and support from others, such as friends, family, or a mental health professional.

Sources of help with emotions if you have arthritis

Mary Pack Arthritis Program

Social workers at the Mary Pack Arthritis Program provide individual or group clinical counselling to people struggling with their mood (depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem) primarily due to living with a rheumatic disease. Along with helping your emotional adjustment, the social workers are available to address relationship stress, social isolation, and the ways in which self-management strategies can improve your ability to cope. You can also ask for a review of community resources to ensure that you are in contact with all appropriate agency services, programs, and financial benefits for which you are eligible to receive. Ask your doctor or your rheumatologist for a referral to Social Work Services.


Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addictions (CARMHA) 

Associated with Simon Fraser University, the website for this centre has several great resources of interest to people with arthritis or health care professionals including:

  1. The Antidepressant Skills Workbook gives an overview of depression, explains how it can be effectively managed according to the best available research, and gives a step-by-step guide to changing patterns that trigger depression. 
  2. A version of the Antidepressant Skills Workbook that’s been designed for use by teens.
  3. Three part relaxation audio to promote releasing tension.
  4. Positive Coping with Health Conditions is a self-care workbook for individuals who deal with health conditions, including patients, physicians, psychologists, nurses, rehabilitation professionals and researchers.

Canadian Mental Health Association – Living Life to the Full

Living Life to the Full is for anyone dealing with stress, anxiety or just needing help in dealing with life’s challenges.
The Living Life to the Full courses can also help anyone in periods of transition, whether it is getting ready to leave high school, preparing for retirement, or moving to a new community. You can take Living Life to the Full in two ways: you can register for the 8-week, in-person group sessions in your community or order the course materials and work through the course on your own.

MindHealth BC 

Developed by Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health and other organizations, MindHealth BC has a screening quiz to help identify the mental health or substance abuse challenges with which a person may be struggling. It also provides recommended resources specific to those challenges that may include online information and interactive self-help programs to local in-person services. All resources have been approved by a panel of experts, including people with lived experiences and their family members.

Read more about Arthritis

Resources and helpful links