Dealing with the Fear of Parkinson’s

Dealing with the Fear of Parkinson’s

Fear is an emotion that everyone experiences, but for those who live with Parkinson’s disease (PD), fear can be a more common visitor, or an ever-present intruder, in daily life. PD is a progressive disease, so once you know you have it, you know that the symptoms will worsen over time and new ones will appear. You just don’t know when, or exactly how they will impact your life. The disease progresses at a unique pace in each individual, so there’s no universal guideline to tell you what to expect.

Between the known (the disease will progress) and the unknown (we don’t know when or exactly how in your case), there’s plenty of fuel for fear.

The Parkinson’s Disease in America 2017 survey found that people living with PD are as impacted emotionally by the disease as they are physically. When asked to describe Parkinson’s in one word, people with PD described their experience as scary, frustrating, annoying, life-changing, debilitating, and challenging, among others. In response to a survey question on what emotions they experience, many people responded that they feel scared, worried, or hopeless about their future.

Importance of attitude

Despite the real fears of living with PD, the majority of survey respondents said they recognize that their attitude plays a significant factor in their quality of life.  Nearly all survey respondents (95%) said they leverage a variety of coping strategies to deal with the emotional effects of Parkinson’s on their life. Common coping strategies include:

  • Getting enough sleep or rest (69%)
  • Exercising (65%)
  • Using humor (57%)
  • Turning to prayer or spirituality (53%)
  • Visiting healthcare professionals (51%)
  • Talking with family or friends (46%)

Coping with the fear

Fear is a natural reaction to a scary situation, and living with a chronic, progressive disease like PD can be frightening. Emotions are our bodies way of processing information, and when we allow them to flow, they can be “e-motion” or “energy in motion.” Some tips to dealing with the fear of PD include:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Recognize what you’re feeling and give it some space. Keeping fear locked inside can make it persist or get bigger.
  • Bring it out into the open by talking with a friend, a support group, or a healthcare professional. Shining light on your fear keeps it from being overwhelming.
  • Learn about PD. Knowledge can bring peace of mind and help you feel more prepared. Ask your doctor for more information or do your own research online.
  • Change your focus. Experts say our brains can’t focus on fear and gratitude at the same time, so shifting your attention to all that you are grateful for can help ease your fear. Focus on today and what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t.
  • Try mind-body techniques for stress relief. Many of the complementary therapies like meditation, massage, acupuncture, Tai Chi, or Qigong can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Find inner peace. When you notice your thoughts are spinning or you are overwhelmed with fear, try different ways of calming yourself down to find your inner peace. A simple breathing technique, in which you focus on your breath, relaxing your belly to breathe with your diaphragm and expand into your abdomen, can help get your body out of “fight-or-flight” mode.

About the Survey

The Parkinson’s Disease in America 2017 survey fielded by Health Union gathered data from over 1,100 patients and 440 caregivers. The data illustrates the challenges both patients and caregivers face as they navigate the journey of diagnosis, symptom management, medications, and the effect of Parkinson’s on their lives and emotions.

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