Tinnitus can profoundly impact a person’s mental health. Reports of suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping are not uncommon. The exact cause of tinnitus is unknown. Whether the mental illness is a contributing factor to tinnitus or if it is a result of tinnitus is also unknown. The real issue with tinnitus is a person’s response to the symptoms of tinnitus.
Mental Health and Tinnitus
Managing chronic tinnitus is a challenging experience. For some people, the ringing, buzzing, and hissing of tinnitus never ceases and the effects are detrimental to one’s mental wellbeing. The chronic ringing may cause you difficulty when trying to go to sleep. It can make it challenging for you to focus on work. It may also affect your leisure time. The result is often anxiety, depression, and social isolation. A few of the ways that tinnitus can affect your mental health include:
- Sleep problems. The American Tinnitus Association suggests that 18% of people who have tinnitus experience difficulty sleeping. Lack of sleep can lead to cardiac problems and constant fatigue. Sleep deprivation is also bad for your mental health, and if you already have depression, a lack of sleep will exacerbate it.
- Anxiety and depression. Many people with tinnitus develop anxiety and depression. A lack of sleep can indeed contribute to these problems, but the discomfort of tinnitus is another factor. It can be challenging to smile and enjoy activities with constant noise in your ears.
- Social Isolation. Tinnitus makes it challenging to form new relationships with people socially and at work. Since people with tinnitus have trouble concentrating, work can become a nightmare. Building relationships with co-workers is next to impossible for some.
Easing the Effects of Tinnitus
If a person is having thoughts of self-harm as a result of tinnitus, referral to a mental health provider is vital. For those people who have less severe mental health issues, anxiety-reducing strategies can be beneficial. Here are some mental health strategies for minimizing the effects of tinnitus:
- Acceptance. With this strategy, a hearing healthcare professional teaches a patient to accept tinnitus as just a neutral sound. Patients develop an understanding of tinnitus and how it triggers emotions in the brain. Patients then focus on the fact that tinnitus is indeed just a sound.
- Changing negative thoughts. A change in thinking from negative to positive can help a person with tinnitus move forward with less stress, anxiety, and depression. This thought restructuring involves reframing all-or-nothing thinking.
- Get better rest. White noise machines are fantastic at reducing awareness of tinnitus and helping you sleep better. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and electronic devices before bedtime.
- Pursue enjoyable activities. Staying connected to the people you love and the activities that you enjoy are vital amid tinnitus. Staying social will help you avoid the isolation that can bring on the anxiety and depression that often accompanies tinnitus.
If you are experiencing mental health issues with tinnitus, please seek professional help. A healthcare professional can help you manage your tinnitus and enjoy a better quality of life.