Depression and anxiety are common non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s. They can be experienced after a diagnosis or while adjusting to changing symptoms, but they also are part of the underlying disease itself.
Depression can cause shifts in mood, energy or thinking as well as fluctuations in appetite, weight or sleep. Anxiety may lead to excessive worry or concern. Both may be managed with medication, talk therapy and/or behavioral strategies, such as regular exercise and social activities.
Watch the video to learn more about the potential signs of depression and anxiety and how you can work with your doctor to manage these non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Anxiety and Depression
Clinical depression and anxiety are real. They are medical issues, not character flaws. One of the original authors of this guide suffered relentless depression for months, jeopardising her job, her reputation and her relationships with family and friends because no one told her that Parkinson’s disease could have a major impact on one’s mental health. Another author finally won a lengthy, sometimes suicidal, fight against depression once she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and received proper treatment for both the disease and its symptom of depression. Unfortunately their stories are not unique. In fact, it is estimated that at least half of all Parkinson’s patients suffer from clinical depression.
Self-awareness is paramount. Be on the lookout for what doctors call anhedonia — a lack of enjoyment in activities and situations that once brought you joy. You must also pay attention to observations made by family and friends because you or even your physician (unless he/she asks) may not always recognize the signs of clinical depression and anxiety. These symptoms, if left untreated, are damaging at best and deadly at worst.
Possible treatments include antidepressants, lifestyle modifications and therapy or counselling from a qualified practitioner. Support groups are also great outlets for sharing experiences and others’ journeys in this area.
Remember: Clinical depression and anxiety are underdiagnosed in Parkinson’s patients, and they are symptoms of your disease rather than a reflection on your personality.
How am I going to deal with this?
A Parkinson’s diagnosis, although life-altering, is not a death sentence. Still, starting with the moment of diagnosis, you being to feel a sense of loss, mourning what you feel your future could have been: Your dreams, aspirations and events yet to come. At some point, though, you have to give up your fear of the future and begin to live for today.
No one should expect your attitude to be eternally optimistic, but sometimes facing a challenge such as this can be a real wake-up call: a chance to re-examine your priorities, and focus not on what you cannot do, but, instead, on what you can. It can be an opportunity to strengthen character and uncover qualities in yourself that you might otherwise never have recognized. Michael J. Fox has talked and written eloquently about this in speeches and books.
My emotions have been all over the map since I was diagnosed. Is there a “normal” amount of time it takes for people to recover emotionally from this news
Parkinson’s disease isn’t the end of the world. Many of us writing this wish we’d known when we were diagnosed how well we’d be doing all these years later, and we expect to have many more fulfilling years. There are so many ways you can live with the disease now — you just have to find what works for you. Never lose hope about the future. There is always something you can do.
I don’t want to be defined by a disease. How can I retain my sense of identity?
It takes time to learn that Parkinson’s disease does not define who you are, even though you may feel that way when first diagnosed. You are a person with Parkinson’s disease, but you are also a husband, wife, friend and so much more. You can still do many things, you will still be loved, and you will still make a contribution for a long time to come.
Parkinson’s disease is part of your life, but it doesn’t have to be your whole life. Try and focus on those activities that truly define you, that you enjoy, that increase your quality of life.
There is also still a great lack of awareness about Parkinson’s disease among the general public (although we have come a long way). Despite the fact that Parkinson’s disease can affect people of all ages, many are under the misconception that Parkinson’s is an “old person’s disease.” And despite the fact that Parkinson’s patients are dealing with so much more than tremor, the other big misconception is that Parkinson’s disease is “when you shake.” Remember that these are nothing more than misinformed perceptions — they don’t have any bearing on your actual experience.
Are there good reasons to be optimistic?
In a word: Yes. While Parkinson’s disease is a serious illness, and it will pose difficult problems along the way, a person diagnosed today has every reason to hope to benefit from major research advances. Numerous treatments to slow or reverse the progress of the disease are now in clinical trials or have shown promising results in the laboratory. Every year sees the advent of new research technologies and breakthroughs that continue to refine doctors’ ability to diagnose and effectively treat Parkinson’s disease.
Living with Parkinson’s disease is a long journey (that’s both the good news and the bad news!), one that changes gradually over time. While it is important to prepare for the uncertainty that Parkinson’s disease can bring to your life, it is objectively not the best use of energy to look too far into the future in terms of the therapeutic management of your disease. Even within the last 10 years, quality of life for Parkinson’s patients has measurably improved. The prospects for the next 5 to 10 years are even better. It truly is possible to live well and thrive with Parkinson’s disease.
Support is available by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800. To read more about dealing with anxiety and depression visit BeyondBlue.
Have you shared your Parkinson’s Diagnosis? Read this article – The Burden of keeping Parkinson’s Disease a Secret
Find out more on Sharing your Diagnosis