Treating Depression, Stress & Anxiety in Parkinson's Disease Patients

Depression & Parkinson's Disease

It is estimated that up to half of people with PD may experience depression during their illness. Most have minor depression. Sometimes, depression is the first symptom of Parkinson’s. Major depression occurs in about 5 percent to 10 percent of cases.

Both psychological and biological factors are involved. Often, patients will experience a psychological reaction to having a chronic illness. But it is also possible that, just as the loss of dopamine affects movement, that loss (along with the changes in serotonin and norepinephrine) can cause chemical or biological depression.

Your neurologist will ask about your mood, interests, sleep and appetite and fatigue — all indicators for depression. Antidepressants are used commonly to help PD patients who suffer from depression. Psychotherapy can also be effective as can complementary treatment optionssupport groups, exercise, music therapy, massage and other options. 

Stress & Anxiety Treatment for Parkinson's Patients

Stress worsens the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Anxiety leads to stress. Anxiety is created by your thoughts. You may think people are staring at you. You think you may become “frozen” or are too slow in line at the grocery store. You think about the progression of Parkinson’s and worry about the future for you and your family.

You have the power to change your thoughts, reduce anxiety and limit stress. Stress reduction might mean you can get by with lower doses or less medication. It certainly will mean that the quality of your life is improved. 

Meditation, relaxation techniques, massage and guided imagery are some ways to reduce anxiety and, therefore, reduce stress. Physical exercise that includes walking and some form of balance/stretching work (e.g., fundamental yoga or Tai Chi) has a direct impact on the motor symptoms of PD and stress and anxiety levels.

The Parkinson Program Coordinator at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin can provide resources for exercise and complementary medical practices. In some cases, patients may need to meet with a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist for stress and anxiety issues.

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