To examine the prevalence and correlates of depressive symptoms among patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc; scleroderma).
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.
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-rated 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.
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.