Before Miguel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) he often experienced anxiety. He retired early, but his anxiety would keep coming back, aggravating his tremor and making his thoughts race. His doctor started him on an antidepressant and referred him to a psychiatrist who taught Miguel coping skills, allowing him to better manage his anxiety. Miguel now lives a more normal life.
No two people have exactly the same symptoms or PD progression, but, like Miguel, you or your loved one with PD will probably experience some symptoms that are unrelated to movement. This may include mood changes, which can have an enormous impact on your quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatment options that can help.
Our new book, Mood: A Mind Guide to Parkinson’s Disease includes information, tips and stories that provide answers and remind you that you are not alone on this Parkinson’s journey. This guide includes these tips for people with Parkinson’s and tips for caregivers.
- Treat your depression. Research from the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project — the largest clinical study of PD in the world — found that, taken together, depression and anxiety have the greatest impact on the health of people with PD, even more than the movement challenges.
- Fight fatigue, which can be a symptom of anxiety, depression and Parkinson’s. Avoid over-scheduling; regularly exercise — both physical and mental; plan ahead; know your limits.
- Recognize depressive disorder symptoms: You may be feeling more than just sad. Feeling slower or restless, difficulty concentrating, decreased energy and changes in appetite or sleep.
- Do these three things every day to help improve your mood:
- Have a social interaction — in person or over the phone.
- Do something you enjoy — listen to your favorite album, meditate or watch a funny movie.
- Track your symptoms. People with Parkinson’s sometimes feel anxious before they get their next dose of medication. Keep notes and share them with your doctor, who can help you manage “off”-state anxiety.
- Seek help. Depression is not a weakness; it is an illness. The same therapies that can help the person with Parkinson’s can help you, too.
- Discuss any changes in your loved one’s mood or interests with the health care team.
- Remind yourself that you are not responsible for making your loved one happy all the time. If you try, it can lead to caregiver burnout. Report depression, anxiety or other mood changes to the doctor and therapist.
- Remember that apathy is a PD symptom, and that your loved one isn’t necessarily being lazy or making excuses. Apathy can be one of the most frustrating PD symptoms for caregivers.
- Recognize warning signs of caregiver fatigue: ignoring your own health needs; growing feelings of isolation; feeling anxious about the future; an inability to concentrate or make decisions.
Along with Mood, the Parkinson’s Foundation recently published Cognition and Psychosis to help people with PD and caregivers through these changes. Call our free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to order any of our educational materials or to speak to a Parkinson’s specialist.