People with MS are at a higher risk of depression than people without MS. In fact, depression affects nearly half of people with MS at least once in their lives. Why is depression so common in people with MS?

We don't completely understand why people with MS are more prone to depression. Depression is caused by a complex interaction between physical and psychological factors. In people with MS, there are a number of factors that are believed to be involved.

First, MS damages nerve cells in the brain. The purpose of nerve cells is to carry messages throughout the nervous system. If nerve cells involved in mood and behavior are damaged, then changes in mood and behavior, such as depression, may occur.

Second, depression symptoms may be related to changes in the immune system (such as the immune system overactivity seen in people with MS).

Third, stressful life events, such as the diagnosis of MS or an exacerbation, can trigger depression in people who are prone to the condition. The risk of depression increases when a person with MS suffers an exacerbation or becomes increasingly disabled.

Finally, depression may be linked to certain MS treatments, including steroids and interferon medications. However, the data are conflicting and no conclusions can currently be drawn as to whether these drugs increase the risk of depression.

Increased public awareness of depression and other mental health conditions has helped reduce the stigma of these conditions. Unfortunately, some "depression myths" still exist:

  • Myth: If you're depressed, it's your own fault.
    • Fact: Depression is a medical condition - people do not bring it on themselves.
       
  • Myth: You can cure your depression through willpower alone.
    • Fact: Willpower alone cannot cure depression. The usual treatment for depression involves psychological therapy and/or medications.
       
  • Myth: People with depression are mentally "weak."
    • Fact: Depression is not related to mental weakness or a character flaw. Instead, it is related to a combination of biochemical and psychological factors that have nothing to do with someone's intelligence or strength of character.
       
  • Myth: Depressed people who talk about committing suicide will not actually do it.
    • Fact: All talk of suicide should be taken seriously, because the person may act on it.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Depression

Recognizing depression

Are you feeling sad or down, and wondering whether you might be depressed? A certain amount of grieving and sadness is a normal reaction to being diagnosed with MS or experiencing disability due to MS. But having these feelings linger is not normal, and may be a sign of depression.

The main symptoms of depression are:

  • depressed mood (feeling sad, empty, or hopeless)
  • loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • loss or gain of more than 5% of your body weight in a month (if not dieting or pregnant)
  • sleeping longer or more often, or having difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • restlessness or slowing down (mentally and physically)
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • trouble concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicide

With depression, these symptoms usually occur nearly every day, last for most of the day, and continue for at least 2 weeks. If these symptoms (especially depressed mood or loss of interest/pleasure) have been affecting your life and your ability to function at home or at work, you may be depressed.

Keep in mind that MS itself may cause some of these symptoms, such as fatigue, loss of energy, or trouble concentrating. If you think you may be depressed, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Depression can be successfully treated, and it's important to catch it early so that effective treatment can be started.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Depression

Help is on the way for depression

If you think you may be suffering from depression, you don't need to fight it alone. Depression is a medical condition than can be effectively treated. That's why it's important to ask for help.

The first step in fighting depression is to get an accurate diagnosis. If you've noticed symptoms of depression (such as feelings of sadness, worthlessness or guilt; loss of interest in things you used to enjoy; fatigue or loss of energy; weight changes; sleep changes; difficulty thinking or concentrating; or thoughts of death) that have been happening on most days for at least 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you determine whether the symptoms you're experiencing are due to depression. Some of the physical symptoms of MS (such as fatigue, loss of energy, or difficulty thinking) can look similar to the symptoms of depression. But by carefully assessing your symptoms, your doctor will be able to tell whether you may be depressed.

Next, you and your doctor can work together to choose a treatment plan that works for you. The usual treatments for depression include psychotherapy and medication, often in combination. You may need to try more than one treatment before you find one that works. Your doctor and psychotherapist (or psychiatrist) can also help you learn new skills to help you cope while you are recovering from your depression. Each person's needs may be different, but skills that others have found helpful include dealing with fatigue, interacting with others, and learning to respond to challenges in an assertive way rather than feeling angry or helpless.

Finally, reach out to your family and friends for support. It can take a number of weeks for depression medications to reach their full effects. And even after the medications have kicked in, you may still need support to help you recover. Sometimes it also helps to speak to other people with MS who have gone through depression. They can offer hope and help you find ways to cope as you recover from depression. Contact your local MS Society chapter for more information about support groups in your area.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Depression

Staying well

MS can play havoc with your emotions. After diagnosis and throughout the course of their lives, people with MS must deal with a variety of feelings, including denial, fear, anger, guilt, grief, and sadness. And on top of that, they are also at a higher risk of depression. That's why it's so important to look after your mental health.

There's no 100% guaranteed way to prevent depression, but there are many things you can do to maintain your emotional and mental health. This will make it easier to deal with your MS and cope with depression if it does occur.

So what can you do to stay well, mentally and emotionally? The key is to find something that works for you. Here are a few things that others with MS have found helpful:

  • Exercise. Exercise has many benefits for people with MS. In addition to improving your physical fitness, it can also help with your mental health. People who exercise have less depression, a more positive attitude, and a more active social life. Even if you have low energy or physical challenges, there's an exercise program for you! Talk to your physiotherapist, occupational therapist, or physician about which exercises would be most appropriate for you.
  • Get enough sleep and eat well. You've heard it before, but it's true - if you're well fed and well rested, you'll be better able to deal with the challenges of the day.
  • Stop negative thoughts in their tracks. Many of us have an annoying negative voice in the back of our minds that comments on our actions and our performance. It's the one that says things like "I did a bad job on this project, and I'll probably mess up the rest of my work too." Start by becoming aware of what your internal voice is saying. You may be surprised at how negative some of your thoughts are. Try to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones. For example: "I'm not happy with my work on this project, but I've learned from it and I'll do better on the next one."
  • Recognize sources of stress in your life and find ways to cope. Planning ahead before stressful events, simplifying your life and getting rid of responsibilities you don't need, scheduling break times for yourself throughout the day, and looking for better ways to do tasks that you find stressful can all help to reduce your stress levels.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends whose company you enjoy. The emotional support, social contact, and humour that you enjoy with your family and friends all go a long way towards improving your mental health.
  • Ask for help. Don't feel guilty about asking for the help you need, whether it's support from your family and friends, medical help from your doctor, or workplace accommodations to make it easier for you to do your job.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-and-Depression