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World Multiple Sclerosis Day is May 30, 2022!

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an immune-mediated disease that attacks the spinal cord and the central nervous system.

How Mental Health is Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an immune-mediated disease that attacks the spinal cord and the central nervous system. The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is unknown, but what researchers and scientists know today, is that something triggers the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. As a result, this damage causes the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers, to disrupt signals to and from the brain. When this occurs, individuals that have multiple sclerosis can experience unpredictable, mild to severe symptoms such as:
• numbness
• tingling
• mood changes
• memory problems
• pain
• fatigue
• paralysis
• vision problems

Because of the damage that occurs to the myelin, scar tissue develops causing nerve fibers to be damaged leaving signals to slow or change, thus causing the body to have negative reactions. The cause of multiple sclerosis is not known, but researchers believe it has to do with genetic susceptibility, abnormalities in the immune system, and environmental factors that combine to trigger the disease. Not only is multiple sclerosis an immune-mediated disease, but it is also referred to as a chronic illness, or “invisible” illness, because there are no outward physical signs to indicate there is an issue.

MS is an extremely unpredictable disease and symptoms vary over time based on the individual. Multiple sclerosis affects more than 2.3 million people, most of whom are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. About two thirds of all multiple sclerosis cases are women. There are four disease courses an individual with multiple sclerosis can endure, labeled clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting (RRMS), primary-progressive (PPMS), and secondary-progressive (SPMS). There are active periods, or attacks, of MS and quiet periods, also named remission. Researchers have found that steroids are used to help quicken the recovery when relapses occur. As previously mentioned, multiple sclerosis affects individuals in different ways, making it difficult to diagnose and define. Depending on the severity of the disease, some cases may involve individuals having to use an assistive device, such as a cane or wheelchair. However, it is suggested that two out of three people with MS maintain the ability to walk throughout their lifetime.

How is Mental Health Impacted

Researchers and providers in the health care field have acknowledged that physical health and mental health are intertwined and impacted by one another. Because of this, individuals with multiple sclerosis can have difficulty with the loss of independence and unpredictable symptoms that arise, and it may take a toll on their mental health. According to John Hopkins Medicine, approximately 50 percent of individuals with MS struggle with symptoms of depression and anxiety, making anxious and depressive disorders 3 times more common than in the general population. Lastly, pseudobulbar affect can occur. The pseudobulbar affect is a condition that causes a disconnect in communication between the front and back of the brain. As a result, a patient of MS that experiences pseudobulbar affect may suddenly laugh or cry, even when something is not funny or there are no feelings of sadness happening. Rates of completed suicide in the multiple sclerosis population is fairly high, shown by 15 percent of all cases having died by suicide. It is important to note that pharmacological treatments for multiple sclerosis may also cause changes in energy, sleep, mood, or concentration.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness, and struggling with mental health or changes in cognition or mood and is willing to seek professional help, our behavioral health team is ready to help. Call 1(844) 900-WELL for more information.

By Mary Alvanos, LMHC

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Emotional Health

Mental health counseling can benefit people struggling with emotional difficulties, life challenges, and mental health concerns.  In therapy, people learn to cope with symptoms that may not respond to treatment right away. Research shows the benefits of therapy last longer than medication alone.

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