Depression and Multiple Sclerosis


Depression and Multiple Sclerosis

Depression is a complication in most chronic disease processes. It prohibits the patient from healing, makes symptoms like pain more difficult to manage and generally decreases the patients' quality of life.

For those who deal with chronically ill patients, this is not new information. However, with Multiple Sclerosis, depression is not just a complication, but could actually be one of the presenting symptoms of the disease.

The national MS Society and the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America have presented research on this topic. Most healthcare providers miss the symptoms and do not realize that this could be a presenting symptom for the disease.

There are several causes of depression related to MS that include:

Chemical changes that occur within the body and the brain can affect mood. For instance, studies find that the expression of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and other Th 1-type cytokines (pro-inflammatory protein molecules involved in cell-to-cell communications, shown to worsen MS) correlate with depression scores during an acute exacerbation.

Fatigue is the most disabling of all MS symptoms. When we are exhausted, we are much more likely to feel depressed. We simply do not have the emotional energy to fight depression.

Some of the medications prescribed to MS patients may be linked to depression. Steroids top the list. These are often prescribed during exacerbations when patients are already vulnerable to depressive symptoms.

Some facts about depression and MS include: 

  • Depression can occur in any person with MS, at any point in the course of the disease
  • Depression does not indicate weakness of character
  • A person cannot control or prevent depression with willpower or determination

When depression occurs, it deserves the same careful assessment and treatment as any other symptoms of MS.

Psychotherapy and/or antidepressant medication are generally needed to treat the condition adequately and prevent an even deeper depression.

Some ideas to mitigate depression symptoms and maintain well-balanced health with MS include:

  • Daily exercise.
  • Reduce stress in your life and strive manage inevitable stresses more calmly. Try breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Maintain your social networks. Call your friends. Join a support group. Spend time with family.
  • Stay in touch with your medical team.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Get a notebook and write. Make a list of your stressors.
  • Stay away from addictive substances such as alcohol.

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