Depression & PAH

DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The material contained on this website is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions.

Anxiety and depression in patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension

Anxiety and depression are very common and may have an impact on your quality of life. Among US adults, about 8.1% experience anxiety and 6.7% experience depression. Unfortunately, those statistics go up for people with PAH. One study of 70 patients with PAH found that 33% experienced anxiety and 30% suffered from depression.

What are the signs and where to go if you have symptoms of depression article thumbnail

Anxiety and depression prevalence

Chart showing the prevalence of anxiety and depression in PAH patients vs US adults

Because anxiety and depression are so common among people living with PAH, it’s extremely important to know the signs and to seek help when needed.

What are some signs of depression?

Depression might seem easy to recognize in others, but what about when you’re the one who may be experiencing it? We’re often not as good at recognizing issues when they are happening to us. There is an online depression screening tool that is used to help identify symptoms of depression. However, if you think you might be depressed, reaching out to a healthcare professional is always the best choice.

Depression screening tool

Some of the topics covered in the Mental Health America Online Depression Test include common symptoms of depression:

  • Loss of interest and pleasure in doing things
  • Feeling down or hopeless
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling tired
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Having thoughts of suicide

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1- 800-273-8255.

What should I do if I think I might be depressed?

If you’re already dealing with the daily symptoms of PAH, depression and anxiety may feel even more unbearable. Starting to discuss the issue with a qualified healthcare professional as soon as possible is an important first step. Keep your PAH healthcare team informed of any new health conditions—including mental health. Not only can they offer support, but they may also be able to recommend local resources to help with depression or other mental health concerns. The American Psychological Association Psychologist Locator can also help you quickly find a therapist near you.

A man speaking with a therapist to help with depression or other mental health concerns

Are there ways to get ahead of depression?

With PAH, life has already been turned upside down. By finding more information, like this website and other resources, you’re already taking an important step in understanding how mental health and a disease like PAH sometimes go hand in hand. There may be some ways to stay ahead of depression, though. In fact, research shows that lifestyle choices may help decrease the chance that someone may have mental health issues. In a study with more than 7,000 people, better mental health was linked with these lifestyle improvements:

  • Getting regular physical activity, including moderate exercise
  • Participating in cultural and mental activities, such as being part of a community group or reading a book
  • Staying within the “normal” range for body mass index
  • Not smoking
  • Keeping alcohol consumption low or moderate

If you are looking to make changes like these, talking to your healthcare team about your goals is a great place to start. If you’re already doing some or all these things, keep it up! The small things you are doing each day add up.

How does stress affect the rest of the body?

Wondering how mental stress impacts the rest of your body? Consider this: Stress may cause changes to the rest of your body, including

  • Heartburn
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Tense muscles
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Weakened immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Increased depression

Feeling some level of stress about relationships, work, or health condition may seem inevitable—and sometimes, it is. Unfortunately, stress is part of life. We all experience it sometimes. However, finding ways to alleviate stress may help improve the way you feel day-to-day and avoid making your PAH symptoms feel even worse.

Lean on your support network

Remember, your support network is here for you when times get tough. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your

  • PAH specialist
  • PAH care team
  • PAH advocate
  • PAH caregiver
  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Other people living with PAH

Staying connected with those who understand what you’re going through is extremely important. Sometimes, a PAH care team member, advocate, or loved one will be able to give you the support you need to relieve stress and stay healthier. Or, if you do need medical assistance for anxiety or depression, your healthcare team can help you find resources and information when you are feeling too overwhelmed or down to tackle it on your own.

Join the PAH Initiative community!

Join the PAH Initiative to be among the first to learn about new educational resources, find out when PAH events are scheduled, and get inspired by others who are moving forward on their PAH journey.

Join the PAH Initiative

You may also be interested in …

Why self-care is important

Living with PAH can be a big adjustment—but taking care of yourself can make a big difference. So, where do you start? This article gives you a wide range of ideas for incorporating self-care into your daily routine.

Read Article
Why self-care is important article thumbnail