Multiple Sclerosis Centre
In addition to its physical symptoms, multiple sclerosis (MS) has powerful emotional implications and you may find the emotional impact the most challenging aspect of the disease. It is a difficult task to adjust to the diagnosis of a disorder that is unpredictable, has a fluctuation course and carries a risk of progressing over time to some level of physical disability.
Some of the emotional changes observed in people with MS include the following:
Major depressive as well as less severe depressive periods. Clinical depression is more common in people with MS than in the general population. Researchers are not sure if this higher rate of depression is due to an emotional response to having the disease or is related to the physiology of the disease.
Grieving for losses related to the disease. People with MS often experience losses, such as the loss of ability to walk or participate in certain leisure activities. Grief is time-limited and although it may resemble depression, it generally resolves on its own.
Stress and reactions to stressful situations. MS is unpredictable and just anticipating the next attack can be a significant source of stress. MS can lead to some major life changes such as loss of mobility or the ability to work and the person with MS faces significant challenges.
Generalised anxiety. MS is a generally disabling, progressive and unpredictable disease that can cause significant anxiety, anger and frustration. The tremendous uncertainty associated with MS is one of its most distressing aspects.
Mood swings. Moodiness manifests as rapid and generally unpredictable changes in emotions and can be one of the most challenging aspects of MS from the family’s point of view.
Uncontrollable laughing and/or crying. Approximately 10% of people with MS experience uncontrollable episodes of laughing and/or crying that are unpredictable and seem to have little or no association to actual events or the person’s emotions. These episodes are thought to be the result of damaged areas in emotional pathways in the brain.
Inappropriate behaviour. A very small proportion of people with MS show inappropriate behaviour such as sexual aggressiveness. This type of behaviour is generally beyond the control of the individual and is not a sign of moral weakness.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress or other emotional difficulties, you should tell a friend or family member and your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider will be able to refer you to a counsellor, social worker or therapist who can help you find the appropriate way to address your needs. Getting the support you need to deal with these emotional challenges is essential to maintaining your quality of life. Here are some suggestions to help you even out the ups and downs:
- Maintain normal daily activities as best you can
- Stay connected to friends and family
- Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do
- A healthy diet and regular exercise also go a long way toward helping you cope emotionally. Doing yoga, practicing relaxation techniques and spending time doing things you enjoy can also relieve emotional distress.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to know more about multiple sclerosis and your emotional wellbeing. Call us on the EWP number or email us at
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