Multiple Sclerosis and Depression

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a debilitating disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Multiple sclerosis involves the damage of the nerve cells, causing an interruption of nerve signals in the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body. Depression is an emotional change found often in MS patients.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

The signs of MS vary from person to person, depending on where damage occurs in the CNS. Symptoms may include fatigue, difficulty with balance and coordination, pain, numbness and tingling, dizziness, urinary incontinence, visual problems, confusion, and emotional changes.

Depression and MS

Depression is a mental disorder that appears frequently in cases of MS. Depression describes a broad range of emotions. People with depression frequently feel sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, restlessness, worry, frustration, fatigue, grief, stress, and guilt.

MS causes the slowing of nerve messages. Decreased nerve messages can cause mood changes, including depression. MS can progressively lead to disability, a change that can cause stress and depression. Many of the medications used to treat MS can also cause depression.

Depression Symptoms

Feeling down for a few hours or a couple of days is mild depression, whereas clinical depression is more severe and can last many months. Anyone with clinical depression should contact their physician immediately. Symptoms of depression in an MS patient are generally the same as depression in the rest of the population. The following are symptoms of clinical depression:

  • Feeling sad and crying often
  • Decrease of pleasure in usual activities
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Frequent worrying and anxiety
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty with thinking clearly or with concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts

Treating Depression

There are treatments prescribed by a doctor for MS patients, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy. There are also many strategies to use to help manage the depression, some of which are outlined below:

  • Talk openly to loved ones about present thoughts and feelings
  • Spend time visiting with friends and family
  • Get into a support group with other patients who have MS
  • Get involved or volunteer in the community
  • Spend some time relaxing
  • Under a doctor's supervision, start an exercise program
  • Eat a healthy diet
Last Updated: April 18, 2018