Managing MS and Anxiety
Counselor Eric Patterson and MSer Libby Selinsky share their thoughts and tips for managing anxiety.
Counselor Eric’s Tips for Reducing MS Anxiety
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that attacks you in multidimensional ways. Mentally, physically, cognitively, emotionally and spiritually, MS will test your perseverance and aptitude for managing your symptoms.
As your time with MS lengthens, you may begin to see new and different ways it impacts your life. Of course, there are the direct influences of the disease: your body will be inconsistently weak; your memory and attention will suffer; your emotions and frustrations may boil over more often than you would like.
Then there are the indirect effects of MS. These ones are not attributed to the disease in a cause and effect relationship. Rather than being a symptom of MS, they are a symptom of a symptom — these are second-level problems.
Second-level problems might sound mild or easier to manage, but at times these issues can equal or surpass the damage caused by the direct symptoms. Indirect symptoms of MS can include problems like:
- Poor relationships due to changing roles and expectations.
- Increased work stress from diminished productivity or performance.
- Increased mental health symptoms.
The last item on the list may be the most alarming. Many people in the United States are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. People with MS are in the unique position of being even more prone to the symptoms of anxiety.
Overall, people with MS have a 43 percent chance of meeting the criteria for an anxiety. The rates for anxiety disorders are even higher in women with MS.
Anxiety will present differently in different people, but many symptoms will be seen across the population no matter which anxiety disorder is experienced. Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Worried thinking marked by expecting the worst to happen no matter what the situation.
- Having thoughts that seem sped up or hard to separate.
- Decreased ability to focus or concentrate.
- Feeling tense and physically fatigued.
- Feeling restless or jittery.
- Decreased appetite and sleep.
As you know, identifying the problem and gaining an understanding of the symptoms is only the beginning of your task. The real work comes from the question: What are you going to do about it?
Some might sit back and wait for the symptoms to progress or grow out of control. Others might think they will be in the group that never experiences anxiety as a second-level symptom. Both plans are poor because neither is interested in action. Being a passive spectator to anxiety will end in disappointment.
Next page: counselor Eric offers his answers for dealing with MS anxiety.
Page three: MS warrior Libby shares her thoughts on coping with anxiety.