Depression and Anxiety in Multiple Sclerosis
Research has suggested that half of MS patients suffer from depression during their lives and that anxiety disorders affect one in four. Both depressions and anxiety disorders may mimic or worsen other common MS symptoms and require an experienced clinician to determine the thread that connects the symptoms reported by the patient with underlying anxiety or depression.
There are so many things to consider and so many uncertainties about the future that life can seem overwhelming; often people around you are unable to appreciate the effects of many early symptoms and this may affect your relationships. Finding help early is extremely important, but often difficult. The first thing is to make sure your primary care doctor and MS specialist are aware of how you are feeling. They may refer you to a specific therapist or to a local MS advocacy group. Contact an MS organization for help including the MS Association of America (MSAA), the National MS Society (NMSS) and the MS Foundation. Depending on where you live at least one of these groups should be able to provide a recommendation. In the interim there are certain things you can do to help yourself:
- If you do not have the energy to exercise at present at least change your routine and get out of the house on a regular basis and go for short walks; talk to your physician about any barriers you must surmount to start an exercise program and do not impose barriers. There are many treatable reasons for feeling too tired to exercise such as excessive daytime sleepiness. You may do better with a supervised program or a group program. The important thing is to find a way to exercise.
- Start journaling your feelings and use the journal to jot down negative thoughts.
- Talk with those closest to you about how you are feeling, but not just family members, especially if your experience is overwhelming them. You may be able to find a newly diagnosed MS support group to help in this regard.
- Reconsider what is most important in your life and reconnect with this activity or relationship.
what creates the most stress and anxiety in your life and consider ways
to minimize this stress; this is a good time to simplify you life and
focus on the important things. Since our lives are complicated with many
consequences to our decisions this may be an area where a therapist
will be helpful.
sure you continue to socialize in supportive groups on a regular
basis (at least weekly). Resist the urge to withdrawal and stay in
your house all day.
- Eat well and avoid self medicating with alcohol or other drugs not prescribed.
- Do not be opposed to medication for depression if this is recommended by your physicians but remember that a medication is only part of the answer. You will still need to find a way to exercise and work on the other items mentioned previously.
Getting Some Help
Here are some websites to help you find someone to treat depression and anxiety. Your healthcare providers might have some good recommendations for you, so ask them about getting help.
TIP: David Mohr's book, The Stress and Mood Management Program for Individuals With Multiple Sclerosis: Workbook (Treatments That Work) is a GREAT tool for you to use. You can read it yourself and bring it to your therapist if they don't have much experience with multiple sclerosis.
Click on the words "Download File" in blue below to read about the American Academy of Neurology's guidelines for the assessment of emotional disorders in people that have multiple sclerosis
Video on Depression in Multiple Sclerosis
Click on the MS Learn Online Feature Presentation to Learn about Depression in Multiple Sclerosis
TIP: If you don't have the opportunity or time to attend a meditation class, check out this link for a website that has free online classes, so you can teach yourself and meditate in the convenience of your own home. http://www.onlinemeditation.org/meditation-class-1/
PLEASE NOTE: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.