How Osteoporosis Can Affect Your Emotional HealthFriday, April 22nd, 2016, 6:21 pm
A diagnosis of osteoporosis can lead to anxiety, depression, and a loss of self-esteem. Get tips to help you cope.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative condition involving thinning and weakening of your bones that can cause a number of physical symptoms, such as pain, stooped posture, and bone fractures. But a diagnosis of osteoporosis can affect your emotional health, as well.
“Having osteoporosis may trigger feelings that you’re getting old and fragile,” says Laurie Ferguson, PhD, vice president of research and education for Global Healthy Living, the parent organization of CreakyJoints, an online arthritis community. It can also diminish your self-esteem, says Deborah T. Gold, PhD, a professor of medical sociology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Some people learn they have osteoporosis only after they break a bone from a fall that seemed minor, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF). “Once they fall, many people compensate by becoming more tentative,” Dr. Ferguson says. This can start a self-defeating cycle: You feel tentative, which erodes your confidence. With your confidence down, you walk more tentatively. When you move tentatively, you can become unbalanced, and when you’re unbalanced, you’re more likely to fall, she says.
Osteoporosis and Depression
Once you fracture a bone because of osteoporosis, you’re at greater risk of doing it again. After a second fracture has occurred, people can become depressed, the NOF says.
Changes in your appearance due to osteoporosis also can affect your emotional health. Many people with osteoporosis have abnormal curving of the spine and can’t stand up straight, Ferguson says, and “when you see yourself so stooped, it can have an emotional impact on you.” You also may lose height. Abnormal posture and deformity may cause you to feel embarrassed, Dr. Gold says. You may become reluctant to be seen in public so you don’t go out. But staying away from friends and family can lead to loneliness, which can lead to depression, she says.
Fear of falling can also keep you from physical activities you enjoy — even from walking. However, your bones are constantly regenerating: Your body removes old bone and replaces it with new bone, according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). Weight-bearing exercise encourages this process. If you stop moving because you’re afraid, you could make your osteoporosis worse.
Improving Your Emotional Health
Here’s what you can do to better manage your emotional health if you have osteoporosis:
Manage your osteoporosis. There’s no cure for osteoporosis, but there are steps you can take to slow or prevent its progress. Make sure you get enough calcium (to build bones) and vitamin D (to absorb calcium) in your diet. Excess calcium and vitamin D won’t help, but getting the right amount for your age and activity level each day is important, Gold says. If necessary, talk to a nutritionist who can help you plan a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Some people may also benefit from medication that can help rebuild bone or slow or stop bone loss. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.
Get physical. It’s important that you keep moving. “Bone must be stressed to grow, and the way to stress bone is to exercise,” Gold says. “And add some weight to it.” Just be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine. Once you start exercising regularly, an exercise buddy can help keep you motivated and accountable, Ferguson says. Walking is a great exercise for people with osteoporosis and you can do it anywhere. Just be sure you wear good shoes and avoid walking in bad weather or poor lighting, the NOF says. Exercise can also help fight depression, Gold says, by releasing endorphins, which are feel-good hormones.
Join a support group. Participating in a support group for people with osteoporosis can help you see you’re not alone, Gold says. People who live with the condition often have the best coping tips and share them in support groups, she says. “They may know how to deal with the fact that you can’t bend over and pick up your stockings,” she says. They may also suggest helpful devices you hadn’t considered, such as grabbers or reachers.
Get help for depression. If you find you’re feeling sad and lonely and have no energy and these symptoms last for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor about getting help. There are medications and psychotherapies that can help people with depression.
Find ways to do the things that make you happy. Like going shopping? You still can. Try to go during the day when stores are less crowded. Enjoy being with friends? Make a lunch date with a friend rather than inviting everyone to dinner. If you divide the things you enjoy into smaller pieces and take breaks now and then, you can still do them.
Work with a physical therapist. A physical therapist can help you design an exercise program that’s best for you and find safe and effective ways to do your day-to-day activities, the NOF says. You’ll feel better about yourself and having osteoporosis if you’re proactive about managing the condition, Gold says.
For more information on how Ossteoporsis can affect your emotional health, please visit EverydayHealth.com.
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