Improving Quality of Life with Parkinson's and Depression

Depression occurs more frequently and is less often treated than many other Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms. Here are some sobering numbers and thoughts about depression in Parkinson's disease ...

Depression is more likely to occur with Parkinson's than with other chronic disease. Estimates suggest that at least 50 percent of people diagnosed with PD experience some form of depression.1

But, many people do not receive treatment because it is overlooked or under-treated. This can lead to a negative impact on quality of life.1

Getting help

If I think I might be slipping into depression, what should I do? Get medical help as soon as you can! Depression can be effectively treated with appropriate medication and psychotherapy.1

Why don’t people with Parkinson’s report depression or receive treatment? In general, people may not want to talk to their doctor about mental health issues due to the stigmas that exist.2

They may feel personal embarrassment about what they are experiencing. They may not want go on antipsychotic medication or try psychotherapy or are unable to afford treatment.

Improving quality of life

Are there actions one can take to lessen depression in additional to medical treatment? Yes, individual actions to improve quality of life with Parkinson's and depression include:

Education - Learn as much as you possibly can about PD, the progression and symptoms, and ensure your knowledge base is up to date and from reliable sources. Knowledge helps to dispel the many false things you may encounter and helps you to have the best possible medical appointments.

Honesty - Be honest and accurate with your doctor regarding your PD. In addition to depression, some other subjects of a reticent nature include incontinence, cognition issues, and sexual dysfunction.

Coping skills - Learn about coping skills and evaluate which ones work for you and when they might work for you. Coping skills are essentially ways to relax your body and refocus your mind. 

Relaxation techniques

According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits, such as:3

  • Slowing heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Improving digestion
  • Restoring normal blood sugar levels
  • Reducing activity of stress hormones
  • increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration and mood
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

Coping methods

Here are just a few of the many coping methods out there:3

Take a deep breath - In fact, take several deep breaths. Taking a deep breath is not automatic. You have to think about it and often that will break a negative thought.

Progressive muscle relaxation - This is a relaxation technique where you practice tensing, or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase where you release the tension. I use a version twice a day involving progressively relaxing muscles from my toes to my ears.

Meditation - There are many forms of meditation ranging from focused attention to spiritual. All offer the opportunity to disengage your current thoughts and moving to a different more peaceful focus.

Change the paradigm - Walk away mentally and physically from whatever is negative. Focus on a positive that always makes you feel good. One of mine is imagining a fountain with the sounds of trickling water.

Exercise - While the benefits of exercise in slowing Parkinson’s progression are well known, there are also mental benefits to exercise.

Improving social life

Here are a few tips for improving social aspects of quality of life with Parkinson's and depression:

  • Avoid becoming socially isolated
  • Join a local PD support group
  • Try to preserve and even expand your pre-PD social networks
  • If you are religious, practice your beliefs
  • Try PD group exercise classes
  • Commit time to new hobbies and activities to replace ones you’ve lost or had to give up due to PD symptoms or just aging

Although it cannot prevent or cure depression or PD, keeping your mind and body as active can help improve quality of life. These are powerful weapons in your fight against PD and depression!

If you have the slightest feeling of slipping into depression, consult your doctors. Otherwise, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to start your engines!

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