Depression & Mood
It is normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness after a Parkinson’s disease (PD) diagnosis. But if these feelings linger for weeks or longer and affect your ability to function at home or enjoy pleasurable activities you may be experiencing depression.
The Parkinson’s Foundation Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest-ever clinical study of Parkinson’s disease (PD), found that taken together, depression and anxiety have the greatest impact on the health of people with PD, even more than the movement challenges.
Depression is extremely common in people with Parkinson’s. Know the signs of depression and talk to your doctor about it. Unlike many movement symptoms, depression is often successfully treatable. Overcoming depression often requires a multi-faceted approach —including medication, therapy and lifestyle strategies.
of people with PD will experience some form of depression.
of people with Parkinson’s will experience an anxiety disorder.
Making Sense of Depression
In living with Parkinson’s, you many notice some negative changes in your mood. For some people, depression may be a temporary condition, related to coping with the disease. For others, depression can be long-lasting, triggered by chemical changes in the brain or ongoing feelings of powerlessness and fear that can occur when dealing with a chronic illness.
If you think you may be depressed it is crucial that you discuss symptoms with your doctor. Some medical conditions or medications can cause symptoms that mimic depression. Once you explore the reasons behind the depression, you can find the treatment options that work for you.
More About Depression
Learn more about Depression, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed and tips for managing it.
Symptoms of depression differ from person to person and can range from mild to severe. While people experience depression in differently, there are common symptoms to look for.
If you think you may be depressed, never be afraid to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and work together to find the right treatment approach for you. Take depression seriously and treat it aggressively.
In most cases, depression can be treated effectively with antidepressant medications or psychotherapy, or a combination.
The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends a holistic, comprehensive approach to depression.
More About Emotional Health
Deep dive into mood changes and ways to help manage your emotional health with our book, Mood: A Mind Guide to Parkinson's Disease.
Research shows that regular exercise can help ease the symptoms of both depression and anxiety. It also seems to help symptoms from returning once you’ve started to feel better. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain such as neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids that make us feel good. It reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression, and it increases body temperature, which may have a calming effect.
Increasing physical activity alone was shown in some studies to improve mood. Walking, gardening, housework, washing the car — any activity that gets you moving — can help improve your mood. Even adding small amounts of physical activity throughout your day can be useful.
Mental Health Specialists
There are many types of professionals who can treat depression. For help finding counseling in your area, check with your insurance provider or ask your primary care provider for a referral.
Increased Risk of Suicide
People with Parkinson’s can feel a sense of helplessness at any stage of the disease. Feelings of heavy dread can often follow a new diagnosis, changing abilities and symptoms or the frustration of altering medications. Many with Parkinson’s may relate to these feelings and have found ways to work through them. However, if you are feeling stuck and your feelings have evolved into thoughts about suicide, we want you to know there are resources you can turn to for support.
When asked, up to 30% of people with Parkinson’s have thought about suicide. There are different paths a person with Parkinson’s can take that lead to suicidal thoughts.
Depression is a symptom of Parkinson’s that can lead to suicidal thoughts. Most people with PD will go undiagnosed or under-treated for depression, which can evolve into dark thoughts. It is important to remember that once diagnosed, depression is treatable. Depression can also be a side effect of Parkinson’s medications or be the result of social isolation or seasonal depression.
More About Suicide
Learn more about Parkinson’s and Suicide, along with warning signs and resources available to you 24/7.
Everyone experiences changes in mood over the course of any given day, week, month and year. But “mood changes” is a broad term that can mean different things to different people.
People with Parkinson’s, along with your caregivers, family and friends, experience a range of emotions over the course of Parkinson’s: shock and denial at diagnosis, or validation that your suspicions were confirmed; fear of the loss of control; frustration or shame as symptoms worsen; satisfaction as medications improve symptoms or from caring for a loved one; concern about the future and what to expect; exasperation, relief, anger, grief, joy. As the disease progresses, you will have to come to terms with it again and again.
Emotional and behavioral changes are common in people with chronic diseases, but these changes are even more common in PD. The same neurotransmitters (e.g., dopamine) that regulate movement also regulate our mood. Therefore, the same processes in the brain that lead to the more classical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can cause depression. When dopamine-producing cells in the brain die, movement and mood can be affected. In this case, depression is actually a symptom of PD, not a reaction to the diagnosis.
Page reviewed by Dr. Tracy Tholanikunnel, Assistant Professor of Movement Disorders at the University of Florida, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence.