It's not uncommon for people with scoliosis to feel depressed from time to time. Scoliosis is a lifelong condition, and it can be hard to come to terms with this, but that doesn't mean that scoliosis patients can't live physically and emotionally fulfilling lives.
In this blog post, we'd like to discuss the connection between scoliosis and depression and what can be done about it.
Why might scoliosis lead to depression?
The link between scoliosis and depression is reasonably well-established; this population-based study, for example, concluded that "patients with scoliosis may have an increased risk of depression" and that "health care professionals should consider designing and planning effective psychological prevention and treatment for scoliosis patients".
There are several possible explanations for this connection. The visible symptoms of scoliosis (e.g. leaning to one side, shoulders sitting at different heights) can result in low self-esteem and negative body image (especially in young people) and this can be compounded by the limited range of treatment options available in some territories. Braces can be uncomfortable and unflattering, and recovering from spinal fusion surgery can be physically and mentally draining and may make the patient feel isolated. Whether or not these factors can cause depression, they may well exacerbate it if it already exists.
Many people with scoliosis will feel depressed about their condition at some point, but the severity and persistence of that depression can vary drastically depending on the patient's age, their recovery prospects, the size of their spinal curvature(s), and any number of other factors.
How can you tell if someone is depressed?
If you know someone with scoliosis, look out for the following symptoms of depression:
- Loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed
- Noticeably lower energy levels
- Unusual, out-of-character and/or reckless behaviour (e.g. drug use, excessive drinking)
- Expression of suicidal thoughts (even if they seem to be joking - talking about suicide in any manner can be a cry for help)
What should I do if I feel depressed?
IMPORTANT: If you are feeling suicidal, please consider calling a suicide crisis line. If you're in the UK, you can call Samaritans now on 116 123. For other countries, see this list of suicide crisis lines.
- Talk to someone. Whether you are reaching out to a friend, a family member, or a professional counsellor, simply talking about your depression can be a large step towards overcoming it. If you are suffering because of your scoliosis, it may be beneficial to speak to other people with this condition, as they will be able to empathise with you in a way that others can't. Look at our list of scoliosis support groups to see if there's a group in your area.
- Visit your doctor. Your GP may be able to help you deal with your depression and can prescribe antidepressants / refer you for additional therapy if necessary.
- Treat your scoliosis. If you think that your depression is linked to your scoliosis, you may wish to look into different treatment methods that could help you to reduce the angle of your curvature and feel better both physically and mentally.
Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use a combination of non-invasive treatment techniques to help people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions. If you're interested in attending a consultation session to discuss treatment options, please click the button below to get in touch.
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