The hallmark signs of Parkinson’s disease — tremor, stiffness, slowness and/or walking problems — are fairly obvious to the outside observer. Less apparent non-motor symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and apathy, are also often present.
Both aspects of Parkinson’s — visible and invisible — can be misinterpreted, causing a stigma sometimes associated with neurological disease. Slowness of movement or speech may be perceived as intellectual disability, imbalance as intoxication, masked facial expression as an unfriendly demeanor, and tremor as nervousness. Internalising these judgments or trying to hide the disease to avoid discrimination only make symptoms worse.
Nancy Mulhearn, a person living with Parkinson’s disease, recently shared her approach to challenging social stigma with Neurology Now:
“I recommend surrounding yourself with a network of people dealing with the same problem… I didn’t want to be pitied or stared at, and I didn’t want the world to change for me and my condition,” she explains.
By openly sharing their personal experiences with Parkinson’s, people like Nancy are helping to educate others. One person and one story at a time, we can work to gradually dissolve the social stigma associated with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.
Source: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research