“It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling —- that really hollowed — out feeling.”
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Depression, to those who have never experienced it, is a loss of joy, brightness and creativity. It has been described by another sufferer (actor Stephen Fry) as feeling “blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness.”
You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg, cancer, or chicken pox to just get over it. Likewise, depression is a disease. It is treatable, requires medical care and possibly medication. It is not something a user can just “snap out of” as research has consistently proven.
Is an MS Symptom
In MS, the incidence of depression appear oddly high compared to the general population. For example, while “major depressive disorder will affect about 1 in 5 or 20 percent of Americans during their lifetime, [in] people with MS…major depressive disorder may affect over 50%…” (National Multiple Sclerosis Society)
While being diagnosed with any chronic illness understandably causes sadness and possibly depression while grieving the life you thought you’d have, the incidence of depression is even higher in MSers than in most other chronic conditions.
It also doesn’t correlate with severity of disease or length of time diagnosed. Another study has shown that “some people who are severely disabled are not depressed — while others are very depressed but not physically disabled.” (Multiple Sclerosis Association of America)
Researchers now believe that these higher rates of depression in MS are, in fact, a symptom of the disease as well as the regrettable mood disorder, that in MS the damage to some nerves in the brain lead to “depressive reactions.” (ibid.)
Share Your Concern
For loved ones understanding the physical symptoms of your MS is often easier than understanding the emotional ones. Because when depressed, a person will often be passive, moody, and exhibit low motivation.
This may irritate others who expect you to find something that will ”snap yourself out of it.” But this requires creativity, which you can’t muster, and energy, which we’ve already agreed you only have in short supply.
Get Treatment Early
It may be, in the limited time of a doctor’s visit, and with the wide range of physical symptoms MSers could be experiencing, that our physicians may spend most of their time on the physical progression of the disease.
And in dealing with MS ourselves, we too may tend to neglect our emotional health in lieu of our physical concerns, resulting in the case that such problems are not communicated to the doctor.
So it is our responsibility to bring up the issue of mood and emotional disturbances. We need to be aware that these symptoms can be part of MS.
As a reminder, severe, untreated depression can be life-threatening, causing thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior
Like I’ve said before, no one cares about you as much as you do. Both physical and mental issues are important.
If you wonder at all, seek help, and know that depression continues to be vigorously studied by MS researchers
THINGS I LEARNED THIS WEEK