Understanding the Emotional Consequences in Multiple Sclerosis
When dealing with multiple sclerosis it is important to consider the emotional consequences that can significantly affect everyday life. Coping strategies can facilitate and help.

Emotional symptoms in multiple sclerosis

People with MS sometimes experience emotional changes such as sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety and depression. These changes may significantly affect the daily life of you and your family members. Emotional changes, like any symptom of multiple sclerosis, do not appear in everyone, and even when they do appear, their intensity, frequency and impact varies. Sometimes emotional changes are not reported to the treatment team, and as a result, they do not receive adequate treatment. Even family members and friends are not always aware of these changes, and therefore do not provide the appropriate emotional support 1 .

Negative feelings as a reaction to the disease and the difficulties accompanying it, are natural. The diagnosis itself may lead to feelings of emotional overwhelm or emotional darkness. Some report feelings of fear, stress or anxiety as a result of uncertainty and the feeling that they have no control over their lives. Some report anger and frustration at the thought that they will no longer be able to live in the same way. Sometimes people report feelings of guilt because of the changes their family has to go through or because of the fear that they are a burden on their family members 1 .

These emotional reactions are natural and can even be reduced during the adaptation to life with multiple sclerosis.

In some people, the emotional changes do not go away, and even worsen over time, and may lead to depression. Depression is not always an easy condition to diagnose since some of the symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, cognitive changes, difficulty sleeping and weight changes, are also symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Other emotional symptoms that can appear in multiple sclerosis include: many mood swings or hypersensitivity that is not characteristic of a person, uncontrollable laughing and/or crying, and euphoria 1 . It is important to report to the attending physician if you experience these types of situations.

The emotional changes in multiple sclerosis can result from several factors:
(1) from emotional reactions to the disease;
(2) from the nerve damage of the disease;
(3) from the flare-ups of sclerosis;
(4) From the side effects of the drugs 1 .

The effect of emotional changes on everyday life

The effect of emotional changes on everyday life

Emotional changes as a result of multiple sclerosis, especially those that last a long time, may impair daily routine and functioning.¬†They may harm motivation and make it difficult to adapt to the disease.¬†Emotional darkness or hypersensitivity may interfere with social life.¬†In the case of depression, there may be a significant reduction in the quality of life, impaired ability to work, difficulty in performing daily tasks and participating in leisure and social activities.¬†Depression can also impair the level of involvement and cooperation in the pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment of multiple sclerosis¬†1¬†–¬†3¬†.

diagnosis

Sometimes people with multiple sclerosis choose not to share the emotional changes, because they believe that this is a natural reaction to the disease and they cannot change it. But there are a variety of treatments that can improve the mood. Therefore, when experiencing emotional changes, it is important to tell the medical team about it. The team will ask questions that will help locate the factors, characterize the changes, and their impact on your daily life 1 .

Strategies that can help deal with the emotional changes in multiple sclerosis

There are a variety of strategies that can help deal with the emotional changes in MS. Optimal treatment of the emotional changes will often include a combination of several strategies, depending on your health condition and personal preferences.

Below are a number of possibilities 2-3 .

Learn about the emotional changes in multiple sclerosis

Learning about the emotional changes in multiple sclerosis and the ways to deal with them can help identify the changes and make more informed decisions about how to manage them. In addition, familiarity with the changes can help communicate the changes to other people, such as family members and professionals. Be sure to consume information from reliable sources (such as recognized patient organizations or ask the treating staff).

Talk about the emotional changes with close people

It is important that the family also knows that emotional changes are part of multiple sclerosis, and that they know the specific changes you are experiencing. Knowing about the changes can help family members understand you better, reduce frustration, increase empathy and support, and reduce feelings of guilt. An open conversation with family members can also help you think together about how to take care of the emotional needs of all family members together. If you have trouble creating open communication, you can use a professional to accompany you.

Join support groups/peer groups

Join support groups/peer groups

Support groups have been found to be effective in dealing with emotional changes in multiple sclerosis. The groups make it possible to share experiences, give each other emotional support, learn from each other and encourage each other. The groups can also help to adapt to life alongside the disease and deal with social isolation.

Medication

There are a variety of prescription medications to treat depression and mood swings. These drugs are prescribed by the attending physician according to the medical condition.

Emotional therapy 

Emotional therapies, provided by qualified therapists, can help you better understand what you are going through, recognize the applicable changes, adapt to the diagnosis and symptoms of the disease, and develop skills to deal with negative emotions and thoughts.

Video: “Rehabilitation of the patients with Multiple Sclerosis”

Multiple Sclerosis. Exercises for stretching and improving body flexibility and joint mobility, reducing tone.

For additional information about Rehabilitation of the patients with Multiple Sclerosis you can watch a video demonstrating exercises and rehabilitation recommendations.

Exercise 

Physical activity is recommended by the World Health Organization as part of the treatment of depression. Participating in a structured and personalized exercise program can significantly improve mood.

Conclusion

Emotional changes are part of dealing with multiple sclerosis. It is important to pay attention to these changes, and report them to the care team if they last a long time or interfere with function. The strategies presented in this article may help you to improve coping and quality of life.

The author: Dr. Yifa Arbel (Ph.D.), occupational therapist

Sources:

  1. Mohr et al. 2012. Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation. 227-245
    2. Solaro et al. CNS Drugs, 2018;32,117-133
    3. Jones et al. MS & Rela Dis. 2021; 51.

Check out the demo version of our sets of exercises for Multiple Sclerosis on YouTube

You can find more information about  Multiple Sclerosis in our Library of Articles.

Our website presents the following sets of exercises for the rehabilitation of the patients with Multiple Sclerosis:

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. EXERCISES FOR STRETCHING AND IMPROVING BODY FLEXIBILITY AND JOINT MOBILITY, REDUCING TONE
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. EXERCISES TO STRENGTHEN THE MUSCULOSKELETAL AND MUSCULAR SYSTEM, ENDURANCE
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. EXERCISES TO IMPROVE COORDINATION, BALANCE AND GAIT
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. STRETCHING AND WORKING WITH A MASSAGE ROLLER. ADVANCED STAGE OF REHABILITATION
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