Depression is common problem associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and can affect all aspects of your life.  In fact, it is estimated that approx. 40-50% of those diagnosed with PD experience depression.  Depression is a serious mental illness that causes severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life and relationships. It can also lead to suicide, which can be the result of many factors. Some people diagnosed with parkinsons disease experience depression, or even feel like they are not worth living anymore because their quality of life has been reduced due to this condition.

Coping with depression and Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, but there are ways to help manage. There is no quick fix or exact science behind what will work for everyone, so it’s important to try different strategies until you find the right fit.

What is depression?

Before we get into some treatment strategies, it is important to differentiate depression from grief/sadness. It is completely normal to feel a little sad about receiving a diagnosis of PD. There is loss associated with this. Much like losing a family member, you have lost a piece of your life and/or your plans for your future. Grieving this is important. Grief and/or sadness in this context is temporary.  This is different than depression.  Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel constant sadness and loss of interest in life.

What causes depression in Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease causes changes in the area of the brain that produce dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These are all neurotransmitters that regulate mood, energy, motivation, sleep, and appetite.

What are the signs of depression?

  • Depressed mood
  • Sleep disturbances (unable to sleep and/or sleeping to much)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling of extreme weariness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

Why is it important to treat depression?

The journal of psychiatry reports that depression was significantly related to illness severity and functional impairment. The Neurology journal published a study where they reported that depression is associated with increased disability and decreased quality of life.

What is the treatment for depression?

The best treatment for depression is a combination of medication AND psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a method of changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. With this type of therapy you can learn coping skills and strategies to think more positively long term.

Talk Therapy – counseling sessions can provide a space for you to share your feelings, gain understanding around how you feel, and learn strategies to cope with negative feelings/emotions.

Medications

Certain anti-depressant medications can help treat depression in people with parkinsons disease.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a standard treatment option for people with severe depression that has failed all other treatment.

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