Multiple Sclerosis Ms Lifestyle Emotional Support

Imagine yourself walking down the street and losing your balance. As you continue, you lose your balance again. Your vision blurs a little. Concerned, you call your doctor. Your doctor does a few tests and tells you everything looks normal. One day your speech is slurred. You contact your doctor again. More tests. No answers. Symptoms come and go and still the doctor cannot tell you anything.

The diagnostic process can be emotionally draining. Depression, anxiety and distress are common feelings for patients. Questions like, “Why is this happening to me? Will this happen again?” and, “Will I die?” are the kinds of questions that come up repeatedly.

The truth is that doctors are careful not to make a positive diagnosis without knowing all the facts. Both the waiting and the eventual diagnosis cause tremendous stress. Emotional support is vital.

Knowing More of the Unknown

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that damages nerve fibers in the central nervous system. Because nerve fibers are located throughout the entire body, the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be numerous and varied. Not all persons diagnosed with multiple sclerosis will have the same symptoms. Some symptoms will be more severe than others. Some symptoms may be more severe and may progress over time. While some symptoms will affect mobility, others will affect thought processes and emotions.

All of these factors affect various individuals differently. Fear, denial, anger, grief, guilt and depression are common emotions for multiple sclerosis sufferers. Having an illness that you cannot control but takes control over you causes strong emotions. An emotional support group can provide great benefits in coping with the disease.

Staying in Control with Emotional Support

Multiple sclerosis support groups offer emotional support by helping to restore control and a sense of well-being. Support groups are groups of people with similar symptoms and lifestyles, sharing stories about how to cope each day with multiple sclerosis. In this environment, people with multiple sclerosis can share their triumphs as well as their agonies and defeats with people who understand and empathize with them.

Acceptance: The Gift of Support Groups

Multiple sclerosis can cause damage to parts of the brain that can lead to episodes of anger and irritability. This moodiness, termed emotional lability, can occur as a result of changes in the brain or even from the stress of having multiple sclerosis. The emotional support gained from being part of a multiple sclerosis support group encourages acceptance of the disease and allows the individual to move forward.

Emotional Support Through Therapy

Some individuals may require additional emotional support through therapy. Professional counseling can help individuals cope with the disease. Therapy can also help families interact with a loved one who has multiple sclerosis and learn positive ways to encourage them.

Multiple Sclerosis and Depression

Mild, moderate or severe depression is common in individuals with chronic diseases. In multiple sclerosis, depression can be a response to having a chronic illness or it can be the result of physical changes in the brain. Depression can also be aggravated by medications prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms of MS.

Whatever the cause, depression is not a sign of weak character or anything the individual has control over. Severe depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Also known as clinical depression, severe depression requires medical treatment in combination with therapy and emotional support from family, friends and support groups.

Other Ways to Cope with Multiple Sclerosis

While therapy and multiple sclerosis support groups are excellent ways to learn to cope with multiple sclerosis, other tools that offer emotional support for the disease are available. Online message boards or chat rooms designated for multiple sclerosis patients offer an anonymous connection to other people with the disease.

Keeping a diary of thoughts and emotions is a private way of telling your story. A diary is also a good tool for tracking symptoms and activities and relating them to flare-ups or good days. This information can be a helpful way to communicate with your doctor about your symptoms and limitations.

Preparing for Later Stages of Multiple Sclerosis

Establishing emotional support through multiple sclerosis support groups, therapy and family support early in the disease will be beneficial in the later stages of MS. Although not every individual with multiple sclerosis will have progressive symptoms of the brain, some individuals may develop lesions that alter judgment and cognitive ability.

Other individuals might experience a condition known as pseudobulbar affect, which is characterized by uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying without reason. Still others might lose inhibitive abilities and engage in inappropriate sexual behavior. Some medications can be helpful in these conditions but loving support is the best medicine.

Resources

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Australia. (nd). How MS can affect you: Anxiety – Emotional aspects.

Sanford, M.E., Petajan, J.H. (2003). Multiple sclerosis and your emotions. National Multiple Sclerosis Society brochure.