Understanding the Impact of Mental Health on People Living with IgG4-RD

A yellow graphic with a circular photo of a woman with shoulder-length hair wearing a black turtle neck. The graphic reads, "Martha Otterbeck, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)." There is an IgG4ward! logo in the bottom left.

Welcome back to our Mental Health Awareness series. In this second installment, we address a topic that is close to the hearts of many living with IgG4-RD and the profound impact this has on their mental health and overall well-being. IgG4-RD is not just a physical health battle; it is an emotional and psychological one as well. On the journey to diagnosis and the identification of an effective treatment plan, anxiety, depression, and stress often become amplified.  

To enhance our discussion, we are pleased to be joined by Martha Otterbeck, an experienced Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). Martha has extensive experience navigating the complexities of mental health journeys, having honed her expertise across diverse clinical settings. Her specialized focus on ego psychology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-informed therapy, and insight orientation will be sure to enrich our understanding of these complexities. 

"It is common for those diagnosed with a medical condition to encounter mental health challenges," Martha observes. "The phrase 'you have...' can trigger a cascade of overwhelming questions and doubts." 

Mental health challenges in people living with IgG4-RD can manifest in various ways. Some individuals may experience persistent worry and intrusive thoughts about their health and future, both of which are characteristics of generalized anxiety disorder. Others may find themselves grappling with a pervasive low mood, loss of interest in activities, or feelings of hopelessness – symptoms commonly associated with depression. Martha explains, “The most prevalent mental health challenges that one with IgG4-RD may encounter are: Adjustment Disorders with Mixed Emotions, Depressive Disorders, Acute Stress Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety.” 

“The persistent feelings of fatigue and pain experienced by patients with IgG4-RD can contribute to depression and anxiety,” Martha explains. Many people living with IgG4-RD manage a host of different symptoms daily which can impact their emotional health. Martha states that “daily struggles with pain and fatigue can leave individuals feeling alone, withdrawn, and emotionally unavailable.” Some living with IgG4-RD have had to adjust their daily life due to living with the disease. According to Martha, this can create a “feeling as if not contributing. There is little room for feelings of joy, happiness, and satisfaction.” 

Navigating the challenging landscape of IgG4-RD, with its accompanying feelings of isolation and uncertainty, Martha highlights the importance of social support in confronting chronic illnesses, especially those as rare and complex as IgG4-RD. Drawing parallels with support groups for other conditions, Martha underscores the need for creating networks and communities specifically tailored to individuals affected by IgG4-RD. She states, “wW have a long, well-established history of proving that social support and surrounding ourselves with those who have the same diagnosis is critical to coping and understanding.” 

“Families and caregivers also require support and advocacy,” Martha insists. “Establishing networks and advocating for oneself and loved ones is imperative.” 

To cope with the emotional toll of IgG4-RD, Martha recommends a variety of strategies, including meditation, yoga, maintaining routines, engaging in creative activities, and participating in support groups. We will further explore coping strategies and support in a future installment of this series.  

“In essence,” Martha concludes, “acknowledging the mental health challenges associated with IgG4-RD and implementing effective coping strategies and support networks can significantly enhance overall well-being.” 

As we navigate the complexities of IgG4-RD, Martha’s insights serve as guidance for those embarking on this journey.  

In our next installment, we will explore a bit further the signs a person living with IgG4-RD may display if experiencing challenges with their mental health. Martha's insights will offer valuable guidance for physicians in identifying their patients' potential struggles sooner, as well as providing insight for individuals and their loved ones on how to recognize when further support may be needed. 

If you're looking for a supportive online space, we encourage you to join the IgG4ward! Online Community.

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