MS Mental Health

Managing the Emotional Toll of Multiple Sclerosis

MS Mental HealthDealing with the physical limitations of multiple sclerosis (MS) is an arduous task. The changing symptoms influence everything from your walking, strength, energy levels, sleeping patterns, speech and ability to eat and drink. You can never be sure what your MS has in store for you.

As difficult as your physical symptoms are, the emotional impact of MS can seem worse. At times with the physical, there is a comfort or sense of security in the notion that others can see your experience and understand how MS influences you.  The emotional symptoms do not share the same tangible quality. They are more dependent on your ability to notice and identify them. This can lead to self-doubt as your begin to question yourself and conflict with others as they begin to questions you.

MS mental health impacts span a wide range, as they are both a direct and indirect result of the disease. Typically, people with MS report feelings of:

  • Depression – Those with MS experience depression and its symptoms much more than those who do not. Withdrawal from activities, feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, changes in eating and sleep patterns, increased thoughts of suicide or death, low energy levels and sex drive, and difficulty concentrating are all associated with both depression and with MS.
  • Grief and Anger – Those with MS will most likely grieve over their diagnosis, the loss of their previously healthy life, and the potential loss of future dreams. Some are not able to move past the anger stage of the grief process.
  • Anxiety – MS is a highly unpredictable disease that progresses at various rates over time. It is uncertain how someone with MS will feel from one day to the next or even later in the same day. Not knowing what to expect can lead to increased feelings of anxiety or stress.
  • Mood Swings – The extreme mood swings experienced by some people with MS are often referred to as emotional lability. This moodiness is as unpredictable as MS itself. There are typically no triggers associated with these extreme changes in mood.
  • Pseudobulbar AffectAlso known as PBA, this condition causes uncontrollable bouts of laughing or crying. Like mood swings, these are not triggered by any events so it is unknown exactly why MS sufferers experience this effect, but it is thought to be connected to the damage in the brain MS causes.

Although these impacts may seem far-reaching and overwhelming, good treatment solutions exist for each.


Often in therapy, clients and therapists spend considerable time unearthing the origins and causes of the symptoms. Hoever, with with MS this is not necessarily a valuable use of time or energy, because it is impossible to know the origin. Grief, depression and physiological changes can all result in the same symptoms. Instead, daily management is the most important gosl. Look at your symptoms individually to find effective solutions for each.

Next page: fighting back against depression.

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