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Multiple Sclerosis and Depression

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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.

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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.

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