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How Parkinson’s Disease Affects Your Mental Health

Is there a link between Parkinson's disease and poor mental health? Find out how PD affects your mental health, here at HealthyPlace.

Parkinson's disease and mental health is a complex issue. While Parkinson's disease doesn't exactly cause mental health issues, it can increase your likelihood of depression, anxiety and even psychosis. Sometimes, these symptoms show up long before other signs of Parkinson's, making them difficult to diagnose and treat. What's more, certain Parkinson's medications can add to the emotional challenges that often come with the illness. All of this can take a toll on your Parkinson's disease and mental health, so what's the solution?

Parkinson’s Disease and Mental Health: What’s the Link?

The relationship between Parkinson's disease and mental health is not straightforward. This is because, when it comes to the brain, no one is entirely sure what causes either Parkinson's disease or mental illness. However, there is no evidence to suggest that a pre-existing mental health condition increases your risk of developing Parkinson's disease ("Parkinson’s Causes: How Do You Get Parkinson’s Disease?"). On the other hand, a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease does make you more susceptible to developing mental health conditions.

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health symptoms in people with Parkinson's. Signs to look out for include:

  • Changes in appetite, either eating too much or too little
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Stress or irritability
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Feeling hopeless or “down” most days
  • Feeling fearful or constantly worried

The mental health symptoms of Parkinson's disease can also affect your physical symptoms and vice versa. For example, some people find that their anxiety increases when they have OFF episodes where their medication doesn't work as well. Others report feeling depressed as a result of worsening symptoms.

If you're struggling with the mental or emotional effects of Parkinson's disease, you should talk to your doctor. He or she may suggest changing or adjusting your medication.

How are Mental Health Problems Treated in Parkinson’s Disease?

Mental health problems in Parkinson's disease can be treated with a combination of medication, talking therapy and lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also suggest joining a Parkinson’s support group so that you can share your challenges with other PD patients. 

Other ways to care for your mental health if you have Parkinson's include:

  • Getting outside as much as possible: Taking a walk becomes increasingly difficult as Parkinson's disease progresses, but daylight and fresh air can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. Scientists say that just five minutes a day in nature can boost overall mood and self-esteem. 
  • Gardening: Gardening has many physical and cognitive benefits and promotes social interaction. Research has also found that gardening has a positive impact on those with dementia, cancer and other long-term health conditions.  
  • Eating a healthy diet: Doctors often talk about the link between food and mental health, but did you know that diet is essential for Parkinson's treatment, too? Try to eat a balanced diet filled with whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and ask your doctor about any foods you should avoid if you're taking medications.  
  • Spending time with others: Both Parkinson's disease and mental health problems can be isolating. Try to ensure you spend as much time around other people as possible, including friends, family and the people you meet at support groups. Although you may not always feel up to socializing, lack of social connectedness can have a negative impact on your life with PD, so it's important to spend time with others whenever you can.  
  • See your doctor: While numerous positive lifestyle changes will improve your mental health with Parkinson's disease, symptoms such as hearing voices, visual disturbances, extreme anxiety or thoughts about harming yourself or others should always be reported to your doctor. These may be signs that you need closer monitoring and treatment.  

Parkinson's disease and mental health problems are not easily cured. However, there are a variety of treatment options and lifestyle changes that can boost your mental wellbeing and improve your overall quality of life.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2020, February 10). How Parkinson’s Disease Affects Your Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parkinsons-disease/effects/how-parkinsons-disease-affects-your-mental-health

Last Updated: February 18, 2020

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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