Multiple Sclerosis and Depression

Many people with MS also have depression. In fact, about half of all people with multiple sclerosis will need treatment for the condition at some point.

If you have MS and you've also felt sad for a while, you don’t have to handle it alone. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling, and see if there are any treatments that can help you.

What’s the Link?

Anyone dealing with too much stress or a tough situation might have depression. It’s easy to understand how MS, which takes a toll on physical health and may cause lasting problems, can bring on the mood disorder.

MS might also cause depression. The disease may destroy the protective coating around nerves that helps the brain send signals that affect mood.

Depression is also a side effect of some the drugs that treat multiple sclerosis, such as steroids or interferon.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Everyone at one time or another has felt down, sad, or blue. Sometimes the feeling of sadness gets intense, lasting for a long time and keeping a person from doing what they like to do. This is depression, a mental illness that, without treatment, can get worse and go on for years. The symptoms can include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Not enjoying things that you used to love
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • A hard time making decisions
  • Irritability
  • The urge to sleep a lot
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep at night (insomnia)
  • Aches and pains you can’t explain
  • Upset stomach and digestive problems
  • Low sex drive
  • Sexual problems
  • Headache
  • A change in appetite that causes weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

When to Get Help

Ask your doctor for help if:

  • Your sadness is making your life worse, like causing trouble with relationships, work issues, or family disputes -- and there isn't a clear solution to these problems.
  • You have thoughts about suicide. If that happens, get medical help right away.

Where Can I Get Help for Depression?

Once you decide it’s time to get treatment, start with your primary doctor. She can talk with you about how you feel and make sure that medicines you take or another health problem isn’t causing your symptoms.

Your doctor may prescribe treatment or refer you to a mental health care professional, who can look at your symptoms and recommend some options for treatment.



The first step in getting the right treatment is to recognize that you're depressed. The second step is to seek help. These things may be the hardest part of the entire process. But once you connect with a qualified health care provider, there are many ways to help you get back on track.

Antidepressant drugs can help, but you’ll need to use them only as your doctor prescribes. They usually work best when you take them along with psychotherapy, or talk therapy. In this kind of treatment, you’ll talk to a licensed and trained mental health care professional, who can help you work through the things that may be triggering your depression.

Warning Signs of Suicide

If you or someone you know has any of the signs below, contact a mental health professional or go to the emergency room right away.

  • Talking about killing yourself
  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Saying things like "It would be better if I weren't here" or "I want out"
  • Depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or acting happy
  • Taking risks that could be fatal, like driving through red lights
  • Losing interest in things you used to care about
  • Putting affairs in order or changing a will
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 24, 2016



National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Depression."

Siegert, R. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry with Practical Neurology, April 2005.

Multiple Sclerosis Foundation: "The Many Shadows of MS Related Depression." 

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