Objective: To examine the prevalence and correlates of depressive symptoms among patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma).
Method: Fifty-four outpatients with scleroderma were administered the Beck Depression Inventory, the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory, the Health Assessment Questionnaire, and the Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale. In addition, patients underwent a comprehensive clinical assessment, and pulmonary function tests were obtained.
Results: Nearly half of the patients had mild depressive symptoms, and an additional 17% had symptoms in the moderate-to-severe range. Younger patients, those with digital ulceration, and those with more self-rate functional impairment had more depressive symptoms, but there were few other relationships between depressive symptoms and either demographic or physician-rated medical variables. In contrast, there were highly significant relationships between depression and aspects of personality, psychosocial adjustment to illness, and social support.
Conclusion: Depressive symptoms in patients with SSc are more strongly related to personality, self-rated disability, and adequacy of emotional support than to objective medical indices of illness severity. Depression in scleroderma is a debilitating comorbid condition that should be recognized and treated in its own right.