Does Lupus Increase Risk of Psychiatric Issues?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is a chronic autoimmune disease that often first appears in young adulthood. It can affect the cardiovascular, neurological, kidney, and hematological function of an individual in addition to having many other significant impacts on health and well-being. Psychologically, SLE has been shown to be associated with higher rates of mental illness, and specifically, mood issues.

However, no research has looked at the rates of mood issues and personality problems in a sample of individuals with SLE compared to those without. To fill this void in clinical research, Faruk Uguz, Associate Professor of the Department of Psychiatry at the Meram Faculty of Medicine at Konya University in Turkey recently led a study involving 60 individuals without SLE and 45 individuals with SLE.

The participants were assessed for psychological conditions related to mood, anxiety or personality. The results revealed that nearly half of the 45 individuals with SLE had either an anxiety or mood issue and over 35% had a personality problem. Depression was the most common issue in the sample, with 22.2% showing signs of depression, followed closely by obsessive-compulsive behavior. The presence of these issues were directly related to a poorer outcome and more severe course of SLE.

These findings are unique and provide evidence of a potential psychological vulnerability in SLE. In fact, the rate of mood and anxiety conditions were much higher than the rates found in the control participants, with only 16% of controls meeting criteria for Axis I issues. Although much of the research in existence suggests no link between psychiatric well-being and SLE course, this new research contradicts that, at least in this sample of participants.

Uguz believes that clinicians treating patients with SLE should be mindful of the increased likelihood of psychological impairment that could further exacerbate symptoms or impede treatment efforts. In addition, more research should be conducted into this area. Uguz added, “Further controlled studies with larger sample sizes should be conducted to investigate long-term effects of psychiatric disorders and their treatments in the course of SLE.”

Uguz, Faruk, et al. (2013). Mood, anxiety and personality disorders in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Comprehensive Psychiatry 54.4 (2013): 341. ProQuest. Web.

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  • trevor


    August 26th, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    encouraging to see that there is now a study for something that did not have any research in the past.something like this can affect a person to a large extent so yes I think it does affect one’s psyche.maybe not directly but it could well bring about depressive thoughts and is for the experts to conclude.

  • Shayla


    August 27th, 2013 at 3:47 AM

    The only thing that I hope that you will also look at is that this only makes you more vulnerable to these disorders and does not necessarily mean that it is written in stone for you. Also you have to think about how all of the medications that you may haveto take and how this oculd affect those symptoms as well. Could be something that could play a large role in the development of serious mood and mental health disorders later on down the road and should be studied further.

  • Althea


    August 27th, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Lupus is one of those diseases that is so misunderstood that it makes me hopeful just to know that people are looking for answers still and wanting to know more about it. Thank you for that

  • Darren


    August 27th, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    This study is a very small study and the likelihood of error in it’s sample makes it pragmatically irrelevant. You need to get to the 1500 participant number to be a study of any relevance. Readers are not warned the the statistics for the small sample size can not be reliably generalized to them. In effect, the headline should say “Small study concludes research on a larger scale is warranted”

  • Althea


    August 28th, 2013 at 3:57 AM

    @Darren- I think that for the most part all readers particularly at this site or those who live with a serious disease always keep this sort of thing in mind.

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