Emotional symptoms

Depression icon

Depression

People with MS experience feelings of depression more than people who don’t have it. Understandably, MS can also cause a lot of anxiety. Your mood may be low or agitated because of all the challenges and losses that can come with having MS. Research suggests that depression may also be related to the physical changes caused by the disease. “Depression” can refer to a variety of emotional states, and can range from feeling down for a few hours to a serious clinical depression that can last for months. It’s common for people dealing with MS to feel down, and it is understandable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Left untreated, depression can make other MS symptoms feel worse (like fatigue, pain and cognitive changes) and can reduce your quality of life. While physical symptoms often demand attention, emotional symptoms are important too.

Having a low mood or feeling down from time to time is normal and is different from clinical depression. Clinical depression does not let up and is characterized by having symptoms for two weeks or more.

Symptoms of clinical depression are:

  • Feeling sad and/or irritable
  • Losing of interest or pleasure in everyday activities
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Agitation or slowing in behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Problems with thinking or concentration
  • Persistent thoughts of death or suicide

There is help, whether you are just feeling low, if you think you may be clinically depressed. Treatment can involve the use of medication and/or talk therapy.

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Quality of life

MS can have wide-ranging effects on your daily life. Your relationships may change, and you may do fewer things, see fewer people, feel more stress, embarrassment and frustration, have financial challenges, or deal with not having anyone to talk to that can understand. Coping with having a chronic illness like MS takes a lot of work and it can be hard to keep your spirits up, but it is possible.

There are things you can do, like take advantage of the help and support of your healthcare providers, try and take care of yourself (by eating well, exercising, and managing stress as best you can), ask for help from patient groups and friends and family, stay on top of your treatment plans and closely monitor any changes to work to delay progression of the disease.

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Social life

MS can have effects on your social life and other relationships. You may be less able to get out and do things, and your relationships with the people around you may feel different. You may need to learn how to communicate your feelings and talk with people differently.

There’s no reason you can’t continue to be social. It may help to prioritize the things you do and say no to some things, plan and prepare for mobility challenges, outside temperature fluctuations, and/or bladder issues, and learn how to open up about the struggles you may be having with trusted friends and family members.

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Work

Many people with MS continue to work for many years after they are diagnosed, while others find that the disease interferes too much with their jobs, leading them to change careers or positions. Your situation is specific to you. MS can affect your ability to do your job or be physically comfortable and able in the workplace. Often the greatest barrier to working is the lack of understanding of employers or coworkers about MS. It may help to develop strategies to manage your symptoms and help your colleagues to understand. The effect of MS on your ability to work is another good reason to try to monitor your disease and consult with your doctor as much as possible.

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Sexuality

Sexuality is a complex part of our lives and combines the physical and the emotional. External pressures like dealing with stress, feeling anxious or depressed, changes in the dynamics in your romantic relationship(s) or having feelings about your other symptoms and what they mean can make you feel less like having sex.

It can be complex! Talking through your feelings with your partner, discussing concerns with your doctor, or speaking with a relationship counsellor may help you maintain or reclaim your sexual self.

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