Depression is one of the most common symptoms involved with multiple sclerosis (MS) with more than 50% of MS patients suspected to suffer from this symptom at some point in the course of the disease.  Depression describes a wide variety of emotions and states of thinking from just feeling rather down for a short time to severe depression that can last for months on end known as clinical depression.

Feelings of depression can come forth for any number of reasons and at anytime within the course of the disease.  Thinking of matters such as the future, physical symptoms such as pain, cognitive dysfunction, matters of stress and more can bring depression forth.  In multiple sclerosis patients many studies exhibit clinical depression is more common in ms patients than the general population.  To make matters a bit more confusing the levels of disability caused by the disease appear to have no matter of fact significance towards rates or periods of depression.

Other neurological conditions such as inflammatory bowel where inflammation also occurs appear to have depression in higher levels than the general population as well.  It has been put forward that inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) may be directly connected to depression thus point to a physical cause for increased levels of depression and not only a more mental cause for depressive manifestations.

As with all multiple sclerosis symptoms it is important to try and get depression addressed by your health care team.  Depression when left untreated can greatly reduce quality of life and result in a cascade of emotional issues that interact with one another resulting in a downward spiral.  For example, depression may make feelings of cognitive loss, pain or levels of fatigue feel more profound.  Depression even among the general population tends to be considered something to be hidden for any number of reasons such as a sign of weakness or that it is something shameful.  Depression simply cannot be prevented with a persons singular denial of the feeling nor can it be erased with sheer willpower.  Depression needs to be treated and a variety of options exist to effectively cope with depression including medications and lifestyle changes or a combination of both.

It is important to seek help when you are unable to cope with depression as the condition can lead to long term emotional distress that may even be life threatening.

Depression and Multiple Sclerosis:

While the exact causes of depression in multiple sclerosis patients are unknown in respect to both the emotional and physical damage in the central nervous system some factors have been noted via years of studies and real world experience by physicians and mental health care professionals.

These include:

  • Initial diagnosis which is often a shock.  It is advisable to seek out a mental health care professional skilled in MS when diagnosed.
  • Having stress of real life situations placed upon a person that are difficult for the patient to cope with.
  • When exacerbation’s (MS Attacks) occur.
  • When changes in physical or mental functionality occur.
  • Sudden swings in mood changes.
Depression Symptoms
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The disease itself damages the central nervous system and all of our physical and mental abilities are managed via this system.  Thus when MS damages the brain behavior changes and emotional changes may well take place.  While a patient may well not notice the changes people around them may well such as family and friends.  It is important to listen to them as they may notice changes that you do not.  Do not ignore what others may say to you if they believe changes are occurring.  Instead, schedule an appointment with your neurologist and/or mental health care professional and seek help.

It is not a sign of weakness to seek professional assistance, in fact, it is a sign of strength as one’s goals are to have the best quality of life they can and seeking help in achieving that shows strength not weakness.

Additionally some medications can bring forth depression or make existing depressive feelings stronger. Corticosteroids which are often prescribed when a “MS Attack” takes place can worsen depressive feelings.  Interactions of medications can also result in more depressive feelings.  If a patient is emotionally stable and is prescribed a new medication or begins to take a new vitamin, supplement, dietary change and emotional feelings of depression seem to escalate there is a good chance it is due to these changes.  Again, since MS attacks neurons in the brain and what we take into our bodies nutritionally, supplementary or via medications we introduce possible changes to our brain function.  Since brain function is compromised by MS these changes may well be a source of enhanced depressive emotion.

Symptoms of depression include but are not limited to:

  • Agitation
  • Thinking an concentration problems
  • Slow responses to behavior
  • Loss of interest
  • Loss of pleasure in things once enjoyed
  • Depressive fatigue
  • Always feeling tired
  • Sadness that appears come forth at anytime
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Problems concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Insomnia
  • Sized increase in appetite
  • Thoughts of dying or suicidal thoughts

It should be understood that depression can be a life threatening.  A specific study showed that the risk of suicide was some 7.5 times greater among people with multiple sclerosis than that of the general public population.  If you or someone you know is having thoughts of harming themselves then you should immediately seek help.  Understand the feelings you or someone you know are having may well be due to something such as using a new supplement, medication, emotional stress or other matter.  Seeking help is the first step to solving real world problems.

Clinical Depression:

Depression Comic1
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This form of depression does not go away or remit it is quite constant.  If depression is lasting for weeks on end it is important to see a mental health care professional rapidly.  This condition can only be diagnosed by a mental care professional.  When considering if someone or you are clinically depressed you need distinguish that the depression is not due to mild or everyday sorts of “blues” which we all encounter ill or not.  Clinical depression is often difficult to pin down by oneself as to why I feel so depressed.  This is exactly why professional intervention is needed and again seeking help is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength.  Knowing when we need help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Treating Depression:

Family and friends may help or appear to help a person cope with mild depression incidents however should depression continue to appear on a regular basis it points towards a larger problem.  Since the source(s) of the depressive emotions can vary from anything such as lifestyle, medications, emotional distress or damage to specific areas of the brain it is important to seek professional help.  There are numerous medications that can help remove depressive feelings, dietary changes, dietary supplementation, natural therapies such as Yoga, Tai Chi, hobbies and other activities can help remove depression.

Simply put depression that continues to appear should be considered a warning sign that something needs to be changed.  It is not necessarily something you have done or something you have not done.  There are many causes for depression and because a person has MS the causes can be nothing at all to do with your mental status but can be any number of issues as shown.

Seek out professional mental health care to help you and odds are favorable you will get relief.

Communication is important.  If you have continual feelings of depression let your neurologist or doctor know.  Its important that your entire health care team is informed so as they can find the best solution to restore your quality of life.  Realize you are not alone that many people with multiple sclerosis, over half of us experience depression and it can be overcome.