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Mood Changes

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MS can have a significant impact on a person’s emotions, not only because MS is challenging to live with, but because it affects parts of the brain that control mood. (In other words, mood changes are considered to be a symptom of MS as well as a reaction to it.) It is essential to recognize and address changes, because state of mind, emotion and mood:
  • impact how one feels physically and functions in everyday life
  • affect one’s ability to adapt to change, problem-solve effectively, and participate in personal care
  • (particularly depression) can negatively impact cognitive function 
  • are difficult for others to understand and live with, potentially causing disruptions in communication and relationships
The treatment for emotional changes in MS involves counseling, medication if needed, and exercise.

MS can affect mood

The most common emotional changes in MS include:
  • grief (and sadness): natural reactions to the type of change and loss that MS can cause in a person’s life. These feelings will likely ebb and flow over the course of the disease.
  • worry, fear, moodiness, irritability and anxiety: normal in the face of unpredictability; anyone can become a bit irritable when faced with difficult challenges.
  • depression: one of the most common symptoms of MS.*
Depression, persistent anxiety and extreme irritability are never “natural” or “normal.” Although very common in people with MS, these changes are as deserving of treatment as any of the physical symptoms of the disease. Changes in mood can be a significant source of pain and distress in and of themselves.

*Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The primary reason why the risk of suicide among people with MS is unacceptably high is undiagnosed and under-treated depression.

Get help

Mood changes are not a sign of weakness. In fact, dealing with them is a sign of strength.
  • Begin with the recognition that emotional changes significantly impact quality of life and deserve as much attention as physical symptoms.
  • Keep in mind that family members, as well as the person with MS, may experience problems with mood.
  • Remember that in MS, mood changes can be a symptom of the disease as well as a reaction to its challenges.
  • Report changes to your healthcare team.
  • Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about MS, or contact an MS Navigator for a referral.
  • Connect with others in person or online for support.

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