People with MS and all those closely associated with them should be aware that depression in its various forms is common during the course of MS. Depression is not something that a MS patient can control or prevent in any way. Even if someone’s life is going well, they can become subject to depression.
Symptoms of a major depressive episode: 1. Sadness and/or irritability 2. Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities that you once found joy in 3. Loss of appetite or increase in appetite 4. Insomnia or excessive sleeping 5. Agitation or slowing in behavior 6. Fatigue 7. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt 8. Problems with thinking and/or concentration 9. Persistent thoughts of death or suicide
Important Facts on depression: 1. Depression is \”reactive\” – a reaction to difficult life situations or different stresses. 2. It can also be a result of the MS disease itself. MS can damage areas of the brain that are involved in emotional expression and control which can in turn result in depression. 3. Depression can also be connected with MS-related changes that occur in the immune and/or neuroendocrine systems; changes in mood are linked to changes in certain immune parameters. 4. Depression can occur in any person with MS, at any point in the course of the disease. It is not necessarily only seen in patients with advanced stages of the disease. 5. The risk for depression is higher when an exacerbation takes place and the patient’s disability increases. 6. Depression can be a life-threatening symptom of MS. 7. Depression can also stem from certain side effects of drugs that you may be taking to treat other symptoms of your MS.
With relation to MS, depression can be caused by a number of things: 1. The difficulty and stress of having MS that could progress to permanent disability can lead to depression 2. MS could directly cause depression due to its potential to destroy the insulating myelin that surrounds the nerves that transmit signals affecting mood 3. The depression could also be a side effect of some of the medicines used to treat MS, particularly steroids or interferon.
There is variability in response to antidepressant drugs and it may be necessary to try different medications and different dosages before you find what is effective and works for you. Everyone is different, and no two courses of treatment will be the same from one person to the next. 1. Supportive family and friends 2. Support groups 3. Antidepressant medication (for severe clinical depression) – can be used only the supervision of a physician 4. Psychotherapy (for severe clinical depression) **Remember: Depression is a serious disease and you should seek medical attention immediately if you or anyone you know shows signs/symptoms of depression.