Parkinson's Disease and Emotional Needs
Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD)
can be a major emotional blow. In addition to feelings of anger, frustration, loss, and sadness, someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may also feel guilty for the way their diagnosis affects their loved ones as well. Dealing with these issues head-on can make a substantial difference in the quality of your lives.
Some things to keep in mind:
Maintain Open Lines of Communication
The first step, and perhaps the most important, is to talk openly with your loved one about Parkinson’s disease and the challenges and changes it may bring to your lives. As part of the conversation, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the diagnosis affects both of you, even if in different ways. Discussing these issues honestly may help head off the development of any resentments as you face these challenges down the road.
Watch for Signs of Clinical Depression
As many as half of people living with Parkinson’s disease may experience clinical depression at some point. Occasional feelings of sadness or discouragement are normal, but you should watch for signs that your loved one may be experiencing clinical depression and discuss them with the doctor. These signs may include*:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy or feeling overwhelmed and fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Restlessness or irritability
And keep in mind that family caregivers may also experience depression or need to find help.
*Adapted with permission from Symptoms of Depression, National Institute of Mental Health NIH Publication No. 02-500.
In addition to talking to a healthcare provider about the emotional stress of Parkinson’s disease, support groups, social workers, and faith-based counselors may also be helpful in dealing with the emotional ups and downs of life with Parkinson’s disease.