More than 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s experience depression. In fact, many people experience it as one of the first symptoms of Parkinson’s, long before they are diagnosed.
It is important to note that there is a difference between feeling depressed about your diagnosis and experiencing depression. It is natural to feel sadness, frustration and helplessness after being diagnosed. These feelings may come and go through the years, but they are not persistent nor do they change the way you live your life.
The depression we talk about here as a symptom of Parkinson’s is characterized by persistent sadness that will not go away, sometimes for as long as two weeks or more. Another sign of depression is loss of interest in hobbies, loss of appetite, crying, and thoughts about death and dying. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor.
The good news is that depression can be managed in many ways including group support, individual therapy and with medications.
The not-so-good news is that it is sometimes difficult to ask for help. If we injure ourselves physically, we seek medical treatment immediately to get stitches, have a bone reset, even replace a hip or knee. When we are faced with mental or emotional challenges, some of us are much less likely to seek medical attention. But there is evidence that shows just how important it is to ask for help.
According to a recent study, individuals with Parkinson’s who were depressed experienced more disabling motor symptoms and were more likely to start medication sooner than those without depression. This study concluded that, when the patient’s depression is treated, their physical symptoms of Parkinson’s improved, symptoms were less disabling, and the start of medication could be delayed.
So reach out. Depression is a part of Parkinson’s, just like tremor or slowness of movement, and, just like these symptoms, it can be managed. Managing your depression will significantly improve your quality of life and your motor symptoms, too.