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The Psychological Effects of Kidney Disease

Kidney disease can have a clear and significant impact on your physical health, but the effects of the condition on mental health are not discussed as often. Any chronic condition can influence your mental and emotional well-being as it can affect your daily routine, your mobility, and your understanding of your future.
Living with kidney disease and going through dialysis aren’t easy experiences, but protecting your mental well-being is critical for continuing to live a happy life while you manage the condition. Fortunately, there are many resources available for seniors who are experiencing mental health struggles due to renal disease, dialysis, or the complications of the illness.

How Does Kidney Disease Affect Mental Health?

While kidney disease itself is a physical health condition, it can dramatically affect your life in a number of ways. Mental health symptoms are very common for people with kidney disease because managing the illness can feel so overwhelming.

The Following Are Some of the Most Common Experiences People with Kidney Disease Deal with Regarding Their Mental and Emotional Health


Depression Regarding Diagnosis

The most common psychological complication of kidney failure is depression. There are a number of reasons why you may experience major depression or depressive symptoms if you have kidney disease or kidney failure.
The diagnosis can significantly impact your vision of your future, and coming to terms with your new normal can be very difficult. Like other medical treatments, treatments for kidney disease and its symptoms have come a long way in recent years. Being diagnosed with kidney disease doesn’t mean that you have no future or that your symptoms will completely control your life. However, the disease can change the trajectory of your life, and it can force you to change your lifestyle in ways you weren’t expecting.
For example, people with advanced kidney disease or kidney failure may need to stop working or reduce their workload to accommodate for their dialysis. If you haven’t retired yet, your career may be a great source or pride and purpose for you. Retiring early and not on your own terms can make you feel lost, and it can take a toll on your confidence and sense of self.

Health Anxiety

If you’re already prone to stress or anxiety, renal disease might amplify your symptoms. You may feel anxious about health complications in the future or about the treatments you need to go through to manage the disease. Some people experience generalized anxiety, which is excessive worry throughout your day-to-day life. Others have intense anxiety or panic attacks that are triggered by specific experiences, such as doctor appointments.
Anxiety is also very common for the spouses or partners of people with kidney disease. If your spouse has kidney disease, you probably take an active role in helping them manage the condition. It can be difficult to watch your loved one go through such a serious health problem, and you might feel anxious from the loss of control. Managing medications, doctor appointments, and other aspects of the disease can become stressful, too.

Financial Burden of Treatment

Healthcare is expensive, and even though Medicare covers dialysis, you may still face some steep out-of-pocket costs. The financial aspect of renal disease and treatment can be emotionally devastating, especially if you’re retired and on a tight budget. You might feel anxious about paying for treatment, or you may worry about keeping up with other bills or financial obligations when dialysis or prescription costs eat away at your income.

Sleep Problems

Sleeping problems are very common for people with kidney disease. Some issues are caused by the disease itself, but many are side effects from treatment. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and other issues may prevent you from getting quality rest. Not only is it important to be well-rested in order to maintain your physical health while going through treatment, but sleep is also essential for staying in good mental and emotional health.
When you don’t get enough rest, your mood and energy levels can drop dramatically. You may feel lethargic or unmotivated, and you might have difficulty focusing. Lack of sleep can make you more vulnerable to the effects of stress and anxiety, too.

Medication Side Effects

Certain medications can cause mental health side effects, so some seniors with renal disease might struggle with psychological symptoms due to dialysis or other treatments. Sticking to your medication regimen is very important to protect your physical health, so even if the side effects are difficult to deal with, you should never stop taking a prescription or going to dialysis unless your doctor has approved.
The following are some of the most common mental side effects of dialysis and drugs used to treat renal disease:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

If you’re experiencing severe psychological side effects from a medication, you should talk to your doctor about changing your treatment. However, if you’re going through lesser mental or emotional symptoms, you might have to find other ways to manage the side effects.

How to Mange Your Mental Health if You Have Kidney Disease

You might not be able to control the factors that have caused your mental or emotional health struggles, but you do have some options for improving your mental well-being while going through dialysis or managing kidney disease. One of the best things you can do for your emotional health is do everything in your power to maintain your physical health. Follow your dialysis or medication plan, eat a healthy diet, try to get enough sleep, and stay physically active. While a healthy lifestyle isn’t a perfect cure for a mental illness, it can help to alleviate many psychological symptoms.
Support groups can be a great resource, too. Many seniors have kidney disease and go through dialysis, and connecting with others who can empathize with you can be very meaningful. During support group meetings, you’ll have an opportunity to express how you feel about your illness, and you can learn coping skills from people who are in a similar situation.
Individual counseling sessions are also incredibly helpful for coming to terms with your illness and coping with psychological symptoms. Your dialysis clinic might employ a social worker to arrange care and find resources for people going through renal disease. If you’re not sure where to start when looking for psychological treatment, the social worker is there to help.
If you’re dealing with mental or emotional symptoms from dialysis or other aspects of renal disease, you’re not alone. So many seniors experience psychological effects from their kidney disease, but there are ways to get these symptoms under control. When you care for your emotional health, managing your physical health feels much easier.
Dialysis patients around the country are regularly referred to Blue Moon Senior Counseling to help reduce the psychological impact of the diagnosis. Blue Moon provides telehealth counseling services for Medicare beneficiaries who are striving to promote their mental health.

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