Long-term or chronic diseases associated with pain and disability may adversely impact the mental health of patients. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one such long-term condition. The most common mental health issues associated with RA are anxiety and depression, and such mental health issues often worsen the symptoms of RA.

If one experiences anxiety or depression symptoms while dealing with RA, consult a doctor immediately. RA patients should pay attention to their emotional and mental state as it’s an important aspect of overall well-being, and may even impact how a patient manages his or her RA.


RA is associated with pain, stiff joints, and fatigue, which may lead to depression.
Moreover, RA is associated with movement and functional limitations, and thus a person may find it difficult to perform routine activities. This inability to perform everyday activities may lead to low self esteem and depression. It is found that a person with RA is likely to develop depression two to four times more often as compared to someone who does not have RA.

Let's understand the link

The following factors may cause a RA patient to feel low, sad or depressed:

Nature of RA: It is a lifelong disease. RA patients have to keep a look out for symptoms, follow up with the doctor regularly, and get tests done periodically to monitor the condition's progress, which can be stressful.

Inflammation and mood: Inflammation is the root cause of RA, caused by an increase in certain chemicals, which may also trigger depression. Pain: RA pain puts extra stress on the mind

Pain: RA pain puts extra stress on the mind and body, which causes stress hormone levels to rise, resulting in depression. It's a vicious cycle, with depression also worsening the pain.

Lifestyle changes: RA impact’s the patient’s quality of life significantly and makes it harder for the patient to work, care for their family, or do things they once loved. Increase in expenses: Sudden increase in expenses,

Increase in expenses: Sudden increase in expenses, including the medical bills, may put an extra burden on patients and their families.


Symptoms of anxiety include:

Sleep problems

Lack of concentration


Increase in heart rate


Symptoms of depression include:

Feeling hopeless about life

Feeling empty or guilty

Being angry, teary, or sad all the time


No longer interested in social activities or sex

Feeling tired or listless

Little interest in eating

Feeling suicidal


The K10 checklist is a simple measure of your psychological health. It uses a series of questions to rate certain aspects of your wellbeing, with results showing whether negative feelings, thoughts or emotions have affected your daily life.

This test should only take a few minutes to complete. It is important to be as truthful as you can. It is extremely common for anxiety and depression to co-exist with inflammatory disorders, but the good news is there are treatment and support options that can help.

In the past 4 weeks: None of
the time
A little of
the time
Some of
the time
Most of
the time
All of
the time
1. About how often did you feel tired out for no good reason?
2. About how often did you feel nervous?
3. About how often did you feel so nervous that nothing could calm you down?
4. About how often did you feel hopeless?
5. About how often did you feel restless or fidgety?
6. About how often did you feel so restless you could not sit still?
7. About how often did you feel depressed?
8. About how often did you feel that everything was an effort?
9. About how often did you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up?
10. About how often did you feel worthless?

Acknowledgement: “Professor Ronald C Kessler of the Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School is thanked for the use of research on the K10 funded by US Public Health Service Grants RO1 MH46376, R01 MH52861, RO1 MH49098, and K05 MH00507 and by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Network on Successful Midlife Development (Gilbert Brim, Director).”


Instead of constantly worrying about the condition and how to relieve pain and reduce disability, consider:

Seeking medical advice:

If one is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, he/she should immediately seek a doctor's help. A doctor will prescribe medications or may recommend some lifestyle changes.

Staying active:

Regular physical activity can help one feel better. Simple daily exercises such as walking can help lower fatigue and pain. Exercise can also help manage stress and depression.

Eating healthy:

Too much junk food can trigger inflammation and depression. Instead, choosing a well-balanced and healthy diet comprising of fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. helps to manage the condition. A diet rich in omega-3 fats like flaxseed, salmon, and walnuts may also help manage depression symptoms.

Seeking professional help:

Whenever required, it is advisable to seek help from professionals like counsellors and psychologists who can offer support and guidance in coping with RA pain and managing stress.

Joining support groups:

By joining a support group, be it in-person or online, one can find other people with the same problem, and listen to and empathise with each other’s concerns regarding the condition.

Healthy communication:

When in pain, it is important to have someone to turn to. Most times, a simple pep-talk, or having a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on, in times of stress, can be a good stress reliever.

Stress management techniques:

Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation may help one relieve stress and cope with RA in a better way.