Tinnitus symptoms effect different people in different ways. Most people live with tinnitus and are not affected negatively by it. For a small minority it can cause difficulty leading to problematic tinnitus. In such cases tinnitus can sometimes lead to secondary difficulties of anxiety and depression.
What is Depression?
Depression affects nearly 1 in 5 UK adults. Severe depression is diagnosed when someone experiences symptoms such as loss of interest or ability to derive pleasure from all or nearly all activities involved in daily living. It is often accompanied by the inability to sleep, fatigue and feelings of worthlessness. Someone who is depressed may entertain thoughts of death and or suicide. Others may experience minor or moderate depression, which may come and go; it may appear on one kind of occasion and not on another. There are going to be highs and lows in life for everyone but it is when symptoms last for weeks or months at a time that you are suffering from depression.
Tinnitus and Depression
There are strong correlations surrounding the causes of tinnitus and the level of impact they may or may not have on an individual’s everyday life. If tinnitus was caused by a traumatic incident it is more likely to lead to problematic tinnitus and the impact on an individual’s life can be greater. Trauma might be caused by the following situations:
- Physical and emotional trauma
- Military Combat
- Violent assault
- Sexual assault
- Mugging or robbery
- Road accidents
- Being a victim of violence
Negative feelings surrounding the event and subsequent tinnitus can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Negative association is not necessarily triggered by trauma.
One example might be when someone returns to a restaurant for the first time since being diagnosed with tinnitus and feels a deep sense of mourning for a time when they were in the same place, feeling fine. The mind starts to imagine the time without tinnitus and what it was like. This kind of thinking makes the present a most undesirable place to be. The mind blocks the seeing and hearing of the present moment making it difficult to appreciate one’s surroundings.
If negative responses to tinnitus are repeated over time and negative thinking bolsters this response, depression can begin to take hold. These negative responses can become a well-worn neurological pathway, which can lead to anxiety stress and depression. There are strong correlations between anxiety and depression symptoms amongst tinnitus sufferers.
If you are experiencing depression as a direct result of tinnitus the perception you have of your tinnitus will be worse than it actually is because of the depression. If you alleviate your symptoms of depression, your symptoms of tinnitus will also be reduced. Some people self medicate their tinnitus with alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant that will eventually make you feel depressed and make your perception of your tinnitus worse.
Common symptoms of depression caused by tinnitus.
- Worsened tinnitus symptoms
- Disturbed sleep. Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep enough
- Sadness and low mood for several weeks
- Lack of interest in usual pleasurable activities
- Fluctuation of appetite, eating too much or too little
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Irritation at small things
- Feeling worthless
- Thoughts about the point of life
- Thought of death ‘Life is not worth living’
- Poor concentration
Experiencing several of the above symptoms over a period of weeks means you could be suffering from depression and it is best to consult with your local doctor.
Some people with severe depression suffer from delusions or hallucinations. These are called psychotic symptoms. A delusion might be, for example, a belief that people are out to get you. A hallucination means your senses are picking up something that is not real or seeing something that is not there.
Psychological factors play a big part in how tinnitus is experienced and treated. This needs to be considered carefully if treatments are to be effective and a person is to be made well again. It is vital to recognise these components because there is a lot of complexity in each case.
As well as psychological factors there are also physical factors to take into account. Depression sufferers can also suffer from physical symptoms brought on by depression such as:
- Muscle ache
- Chest pain
- Back pain
- General aches
People with a serious physical condition are also more likely to develop depression.