• Kedren Elliott

MS and Mental Health

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

This one is a hard one for me to write about... I've struggled with my mental health since I was young. It seems to have been a part of my life for so long that it almost becomes your normal and even now when I come out of a bad patch I can only look back and reflect just how bad I was feeling and acting because at the time it's all you can do to keep functioning and on some sort fo even keel.

But I'll come on to mental health being one of the biggest hidden conditions that people struggle with, that's probably not just one whole blog post on its own it's probably a whole blog site.

So over the last month, I've had the opportunity to talk to two ladies about their experiences with MS as I'm just starting out on my own. I have to say it's been quite an eye-opener and also a bit of a worry for me hearing their stories. As you know if you're an avid listener to the podcast, these types of chronic conditions can affect people in massively different ways and sometimes we don't know what is just around the corner or even what we'll be faced with on a day to day basis when we rise from our slumber.

So let's get to the point, here's a bit about MS and how it can affect your mental health.

Multiple sclerosis is a condition that causes damage to the nerves in your brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system).

‘Sclerosis’ means scarring and refers to the damage to the nerves caused by MS. ‘Multiple’ is added because this can happen in more than one place or time.

MS affects people in so many different ways and there are different types of MS too. Main symptoms tend to be unusual feelings in your skin (such as pins and needles, numbness or burning) in various parts of the body depending on where the damage to your nerves in your brain and spine are (which are called lesions). Loss of sight and or hearing, memory and thinking problems, fatigue and walking difficulties (such as tripping, stumbling, weakness or a heavy feeling in your legs).

Other possible symptoms that can happen in MS include muscle stiffness and spasms, bladder and bowel problems, and sexual difficulties. The MS Trust is a great resource for all things MS and goes into more details about the condition if you'd like to know more.

It's estimated that every week 100 people are diagnosed with MS and it's nearly three times more common in women than in men.

Living with an unpredictable disease will of course impact your mental health and many of the symptoms like fatigue, pain and cognitive as well as physical symptoms can all contribute also. Some of these symptoms are also related to poor mental health, so if you are depressed your energy levels can be impacted in both directions along with your mood.

Studies have shown that depression can also occur as a result of MS itself, because if MS lesions happen to occur in areas of the brain that are associated with mood they can lead to depression.

Also, some drugs prescribed to treat MS can contribute to depression. These include steroids used to treat MS relapses, muscle relaxants used to treat spasticity and spasms and some disease-modifying drugs.

I've read on several sites that around half of all people with multiple sclerosis will experience depression at some time in their life. It's important to note that many people suffer from depression already without any diagnosis of any type of chronic condition. But these facts show that this is three times higher than for the general population. Part of this extra risk comes from MS damaging nerves in the brain as mentioned above, and part comes from the experience of living with a complex disease as you can imagine.

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