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krose1223's avatar

Can you explain the emotional problems with MS?

Asked by krose1223 (3244 points ) September 24th, 2010

I just found out my brother has multiple sclerosis and for the most part I understand everything. A year or two ago he was diagnosed with being bi-polar, turns out he’s not… It’s was just the MS. This is the only part I don’t understand and I can’t find any websites that touch on this part of it. I know depression is one of the symptoms but why? I think I just need someone to dumb it up for me, but everything else I think I have a pretty good grasp on.

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8 Answers

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lillycoyote's avatar

I can’t really explain them to you but this might a place to start. Check out the links. My cousin has MS and I know it’s incredibly debilitating physically, of course, but I guess I never realized there were sometimes, possibly serious emotional and psychological components/symptoms of the disease until you asked this question.

heresjohnny's avatar

You probably know this already, but MS is a disease of the brain which causes nerve axons to become demyelinated, reducing their effectiveness.

Because it can affect just about any part of the brain, it can have a number of signs and symptoms: physically, cognitively, and behaviorally. I have heard of depression being a symptom, so bi-polar isn’t far-fetched. One of the phases of bi-polar is the depressive phase, and the two disorders are closely related.

Hope that helps some. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I know a little bit about the topic. Otherwise, I’m sorry about your brother’s diagnosis. MS is no picnic. I wish you and your family luck and strength.

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lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It depends on where the lesions are.
MS can include the brain but is not specific to the brain.
Every case is different and not everybody who has MS will manifest the same symptoms.
I was diagnosed Feb 2009.I had symptoms long before I knew what I had.Nothing of a bi-polar nature.They involved fatigue issues and motor skills.It got to the point where I was barely able to walk.I have been pursuing a supplement approach to controlling inflammation along with diet and exercise and things are going very well for me! I can still kick some ass ;)
.I wish your brother good health and he is lucky to have someone that is trying to understand:)

faye's avatar

I think depression could also be a very legitimate response to having a chronic disease. Or have I misunderstood and he was depressed before? A friend of mine found Tai Chi very helpful.

krose1223's avatar

Yes he was depressed before… and after doing some reading that is a very common side effect of MS, even before you know you have it.

choppersangel's avatar

Hi, I was diagnosed with MS in 1996. Since then, I have been fortunate (in terms of MS at least) in having few major relapses. I am still mobile and able to perform most self-care functions. My natural inquisitiveness and interest have led me to research MS very thoroughly and I have worked for a local (Cornwall, UK) MS charity. So, reading your question and the answers above, there may be some pointers I can provide.

First, if you have only found out ‘recently’, about your Brother, your own emotional state will have been affected – do let it out, ask the questions and take good care of yourself. The future is totally unpredictable with MS. And that’s the first thing. The MS itself is not likely to have a huge biological effect on your brother’s mental health, it is what it does to the body and one’s responses to the world that take the brunt of the effects, especially early in the disease. Here’s an image that I have shared with others who have MS, it can help with understanding the psychological implications (oh, here be a dragon I’m afraid):

A serial knife killer is out to get you. You have no choice, but to walk ahead, down the darkened street. On either side of you are hidden alleyways, shrubs, hidey-holes. You know the serial killer may be hidden in any one of them, but still you must walk on. He/she can jump out at any time, literally. You will never reach the end of this road until you die of natural causes, you have to learn how to negotiate it. The serial killer does not hate you, he/she is compelled to act as he/she does. If you wish to survive, to live fully and to cope with this awful situation, you must adapt, ask for help and get used to the fear. The fear of totally unpredictable personal loss, damage and weakness.

Sorry if that is dark and horrible, but the realities of how it does feel to have MS are often lost in the dealings with care, medical intervention and loneliness. If you can provide him with some support by letting him know his reactions are natural and normal, he may feel stronger.

It is important for him and the rest of your family to begin to understand that when he feels low, or tired, he is not necessarily actually depressed. This is one of the mistakes that can happen – the ‘fatigue’ that MS people get is very real, physical and emotional. For me, I find myself weepy and feeling really down sometimes, but it is actually MS fatigue. The thing is not just physical. It does pass though, with rest and support – nothing wrong with watching tv, playing music or looking out of the window, it makes things much worse to beat oneself up over it.

This is getting very long, my apologies, but I want to help if I can! As well as the MS society link provided by @lillycoyote, if you are UK based, take a look at this site, the ms resource centre and see if you can get hold of a copy of ‘New Pathways’ magazine from them. It is very helpful and positive.

I’m very happy to take private messages if that might help, please wish your Brother good luck and good health from me, take care yourself too.

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