Studies have shown that the Epstein-Barr virus that causes mononucleosis (or glandular fever) infections is not a direct cause of depression.
However, a significant number of mononucleosis patients do suffer from bouts of depression during and after their illness. Why might this be?
Well, depression is associated with many long-term illnesses. In the case of mononucleosis - which can leave a full grown, otherwise healthy adult unable to get out for bed for several weeks - it's perhaps the stressful effect of being ill that gives rise to the depressive feelings.
For many adults, suffering from mono might be the only time in their lives when they have to take significant portions of time off work. They may feel inadequate due to being unable to perform their family roles, or be frustrated that they are unable to care for their children.
Mono can put strain on a marriage too - particularly when it comes to sex. Young people who are ill with mono might be stressed about missing out on studies and exam preparation - or losing contact with their social group at school or university.
In short, mononucleosis can bring about a number of stressful life events which can lead to depression.
What Is Depression?
The difficulty in telling where mono ends and depression begins is that the symptoms of depression and the symptoms of mono may be very similar indeed.
A bout of depression is generally considered to last for at least two weeks (it's not the same as feeling down for a day or two). If you're depressed, you may feel sad and tearful a lot of time.
You might lose interest in your usual activities and feel no inclination to interact with other people. Of course, mono will do all these things to you as well. The condition can leave you feeling miserable, fatigued and weak, to the extent that you don't want to go anywhere or see anyone.
If you think that you may be depressed as a result of mononucleosis, you should see a doctor for advice.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Ten percent of mono patients will experience long term fatigue continuing for up to six months. This is thought to be a form of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Patients in this category are considered to be most susceptible to mono-related depression. They are simply so weary of their illness that it makes them deeply unhappy.
Research recently conducted in Australia has found a possible link between severe infections (such as a nasty case of mononucleosis) and damage to the nervous system at a genetic level. It's thought that this damage could be what gives rise to the chronic fatigue syndrome.
Treatment for depression
Treatment for mono-related depression will depend on the severity of your symptoms. In general, a doctor will always recommend self-help remedies before turning to medication.
Beginning a realistic, gentle exercise routine to rebuild your strength, and trying to spend time sitting in the sunshine will probably help. It also helps to talk with friends or relatives about your feelings, and focus on your goals for your life after you've finally thrown off this infection.
If you think you need the help of a professional counselor, your doctor should be able to recommend someone. Lastly, if all else fails and your depression is severe, your doctor may prescribe some anti-depressant medication to regulate chemicals in your brain that control your emotions.
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