Sclerosis and Your Emotions
of a definite diagnosis
For some people, a diagnosis after months or years of symptoms is a relief: “At last I know what I have.” For others, it comes as a terrible shock. Both reactions are entirely normal.
When chronic illness is diagnosed, some people think of the future in statistical terms, saying, for example, “I have a 50 percent chance of this or that.” In one’s mind, such predictions soon become fact. But only the present is real. No one can truly predict the future. Furthermore, new treatments for MS make past experience unreliable. The future is unknown and today it is full of hopeful signs.
invisible symptom factor
Sharing these feelings with others who have MS and learning their coping strategies can be very helpful. As one person with MS said, “Don’t let others ‘should’ on you.”
decisions about treatment
This good news about treatment options poses a new challenge to people with MS. The benefits of these medications are sometimes hard to see as the drugs may have little effect on the way people experience daily MS symptoms. But people who stay with their treatment will be doing all they can to minimize the long-term progression of their disease.
There are many ways to cope with these problems. Some people make lists of things to be done or remembered. They allow more time for demanding tasks. They accept some help from others. Some people find it helpful to visualize what’s on tomorrow’s agenda. Most of all, people learn a sense of proportion about daily life. In other words, they don’t sweat the small stuff.
Sometimes medication can reduce fatigue and increase attentiveness. A neuropsychologist can test cognitive functioning to determine where the problems lie and suggest specific strategies for coping more effectively.
swings and MS
People with MS may also experience abrupt mood changes. They may go from calm and happy to upset and angry on a hair trigger. These rapid mood swings, sometimes called “emotional lability”, can also be traced to MS changes or they can be triggered by medications, such as high-dose steroids.
It’s important to recognize that abrupt changes in mood or inappropriate emotional responses are very likely to be MS problems. Medications can be effective for some people. For others, counseling and coping strategies prove useful. An open discussion with health-care professionals and family members may also calm some of the stress such reactions can cause.
People who have a history of clinical depression or bipolar disorder (in which there are swings from depression to excitement and back) should discuss this with their physicians even if the disorders appear to be under control. The symptoms of these disorders can be exaggerated by MS or its treatment and it may be necessary to avoid or modify some MS medications.
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|Copyright © National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2005|