Ever since I was diagnosed with MS, it seems like I'm constantly worried about something. What can I do?
Answers from B Mark Keegan, M.D.
Day-to-day living with a chronic, unpredictable condition like multiple sclerosis (MS) can understandably take a psychological toll. People with MS have an increased risk of anxiety for many reasons.
You may not know how you'll feel from morning to afternoon or one day to the next. Often, you never know when or if a flare-up will occur or how severely you may be affected.
Other factors in MS also can affect you emotionally, such as damage to your brain's nerve cells or side effects from medications, such as corticosteroids.
The good news is that, unlike some other aspects of MS, anxiety is treatable. And with proper treatment, you can significantly improve your quality of life.
If you feel your anxiety is something above and beyond the regular worries of everyday life, take steps to address it.
Nov. 12, 2014
- Reach out. Communication is key in treating emotional problems in MS. Tell your family, friends and doctor about your feelings. Informing your doctor will help you be diagnosed and receive treatment, if necessary. Family and friends are better able to help you if they know what you're going through.
Seek treatment. Professional counseling and support groups can also be very helpful in dealing with the anxiety and distress that may accompany MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society or your doctor can put you in touch with helpful resources.
Many people find that relaxation or mind-body exercises — such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or tai chi — can significantly reduce anxiety and bring on feelings of calm.
See more Expert Answers
- Minden SL, et al. Evidence-based guideline: Assessment and management of psychiatric disorders in individuals with MS: Report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2014;82:174.
- Emotional changes. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Emotional-Changes. Accessed Oct. 15, 2014.
- Toncev G, et al. Anxiety in patients with multiple sclerosis. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 2013;333:e358.
- Emotional disorders in people with multiple sclerosis. American Academy of Neurology. https://www.aan.com/Guidelines/home/GetGuidelineContent/630. Accessed Oct. 20, 2014.
- Relaxation techniques for health: An introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm. Accessed Oct. 15, 2014.