The Danger Of Anxiety: Avoidance Behaviors
If youve ever experienced anxiety, you know it can make daily life difficult. One way some people deal with anxiety is by avoiding its source. When you get anxious about getting dizzy while driving, your instinct may be to avoid getting in the car. Or if you are afraid of having a bowel accident in public, not leaving the house may seem like a good solution. These avoidance behaviors could make you skip a doctors appointment, reduce your time with friends or stop you from doing what you enjoy.
People who have both MS and anxiety are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, adds Beier. Although data varies, it is estimated that up to 15 percent of people with MS die of suicide. If you notice avoidance behaviors, or anxiety that is impacting daily life, its important to start a conversation with a doctor.
Changes To Bladder And Bowel Function With Ms
Issues with bladder and bowel function can be a common problem for people with MS at some stage in their life. These issues may be related to other conditions, so it is important to report any changes, so the right assessments can be made.
Issues with bladder and bowel function may include:
- Incontinence an accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel . It is a widespread condition affecting many Australians, so you should not feel alone.
- Bladder dysfunction symptoms including greater or less frequency of passing of urine, urgency, incontinence, urinary tract infections and the need to urinate frequently overnight.
- Bowel issues including severe constipation, faecal incontinence and diarrhoea.
With the right advice, you can manage these symptoms and prevent complications or associated illnesses.
You can also make small changes that could make a big difference, including:
If You Need Other Support:
Access online resources
Visit Every Mind Matters and you can make a personalised plan:
For anxiety tips during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Access services or psychological therapies
Your GP or healthcare provider may be able to help you access psychological therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy .
Mental health charities and MS charities such as local MS therapy centres may provide services or counselling for you if you are living with anxiety.
MS UK provides a counselling service
UK MS Therapy centres
National MS Society USA
MS Queensland, Australia
MS WA, Australia
Private counselling is another option – some useful information from Mind about how to pick a private therapist
Research into new therapies tailored for people with MS such as acceptance and commitment therapy , specifically designed to help people with early MS become more comfortable with uncertainty, is ongoing.
Recommended Reading: How To Improve Stress In The Workplace
What Is The Prognosis For People With Multiple Sclerosis
In some cases, multiple sclerosis does lead to disability and loss of some physical or mental function. But thanks to advances in treatment, most people with MS will continue to lead full, active and productive lives. Taking steps to manage your health and lifestyle can help improve your long-term outcome.
What Are Ms Relapses
A relapse is a relatively sudden episode of either a new symptom or a worsening of an existing symptom that:
- continues for longer than 24 hours
- cannot be explained by other causes
- is separated from the previous attack by at least 30 days.
Relapse symptoms can evolve over one to 7 days. They can then plateau for several weeks. It can then take months for your body to recover. How often you have a relapse, and how severe they are, can be variable and unpredictable.
If you think you are experiencing a relapse, notify your MS healthcare team, neurologist or MS nurse as soon as possible. They will be able to guide you through the relapse and provide you with supportive treatment such as medications and allied health care involvement/rehabilitation, if this is required.
Use a diary to keep a record of your symptoms. Accurate patient information is useful to your doctor in treating and managing your MS. A relapse might indicate that your treatment is no longer suitable.
Due to the episodic nature of MS and relapses, you and your loved ones might experience a range of emotional responses. Specialised MS support servicesare available to support you during this time. These include employment advice and support.
Read Also: How To Lower Your Stress Level
When To Treat Ms Flares
Not all MS symptoms need to be treated. Tingling, fatigue, and mental fog generally go away on their own once the trigger is removed. However more severe MS symptoms that affect your ability to function normally, such as severe weakness, poor balance, or loss of vision, do need to be treated, usually with a short course of steroids for severe MS symptoms.
“Flares and triggers are different for everyone with MS,” Conway notes. “Each person should learn to identify their own individual triggers.” If you or a loved one has multiple sclerosis, learning as much as you can about MS, getting help and support, making healthy lifestyle choices, and avoiding common triggers will go a long way toward living well with this chronic disease. Always let your doctor know about any new MS symptoms or any MS symptoms that last for more than a day and are interfering with your ability to function normally.
How Is Ms Treated
There are no medications to cure MS, rather they are used to modify the course of the disease. At present there are a total of 16 disease modifying treatments registered for use in Australia, including treatments for RRMS, several for SPMS and one for PPMS. Most are covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme . For RRMS, MS treatment aims to:
- minimise relapses
- prevent the formation of new lesions
- minimise brain atrophy
- restore function
- minimise the impact of symptoms on your day-to-day life.
The DMTs can be administered in various ways, by injection, orally by tablet/capsule and intravenously at various time points. There can be significant side effects associated with some of the DMTs, for this reason specialist MS healthcare teams usually manage the DMTs and provide important safety guidance and treatment monitoring for people living with MS and their local health care teams. Studies have shown that early diagnosis and commencement of DMTs can lead to better health outcomes in people living with MS.
You May Like: What To Do If Job Is Too Stressful
How Can I Prevent A Multiple Sclerosis Flare
Disease-modifying therapies are the most effective way to reduce the number of flare-ups you experience. Leading a healthy lifestyle is also important. The choices you make can help slow disease progression. Good care can also lessen your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Lifestyle changes that can improve your condition include:
- Eating a healthy diet: There is no magic MS diet. Experts recommend a balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. You should also limit your intake of added sugars, unhealthy fats and processed foods.
- Getting regular exercise: Multiple sclerosis can cause muscle weakness, loss of balance and difficulty walking. Aerobic exercise, flexibility and strength training are essential to help keep muscles strong and maintain physical function.
- Managing stress: Stress can take a physical and emotional toll. It can also interfere with sleep, which can worsen MS-related fatigue. Its important to find ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and working with a mental health provider.
- Not smoking and limiting alcohol intake: Smoking and alcohol are linked to worsening MS symptoms and could speed the disease’s progression. Quitting smoking will support your health.
How Is Multiple Sclerosis Managed Or Treated
There is currently no cure for MS. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, reducing relapses and slowing the diseases progression. Your comprehensive treatment plan may include:
- Disease-modifying therapies : Several medications have FDA approval for long-term MS treatment. These drugs help reduce relapses . They slow down the diseases progression. And they can prevent new lesions from forming on the brain and spinal cord.
- Relapse management medications: If you have a severe attack, your neurologist may recommend a high dose of corticosteroids. The medication can quickly reduce inflammation. They slow damage to the myelin sheath surrounding your nerve cells.
- Physical rehabilitation: Multiple sclerosis can affect your physical function. Staying physically fit and strong will help you maintain your mobility.
- Mental health counseling: Coping with a chronic condition can be emotionally challenging. And MS can sometimes affect your mood and memory. Working with a neuropsychologist or getting other emotional support is an essential part of managing the disease.
Also Check: What Is The Best Strategy For Managing Stress
How Stress Affects Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
As part of MS Awareness Month, we want to talk about the role stress plays in multiple sclerosis. Having any chronic illness is likely to increase stress levels and MS is no exception. However, stress is more likely to exacerbate the symptoms of MS and bring about a flare or relapse.
While we know its impossible to go through life without getting stressed out, its important for MS patients to try and avoid triggers as much as possible and to get into good lifestyle habits that can help manage and reduce stress.
If you find yourself feeling unexpectedly sad, angry, anxious or more fatigued than normal, you are probably suffering from stress. Tackling stress and taking positive steps to reduce it will benefit your overall physical and emotional health.
Getting plenty of rest is one way to try and reduce stress. If youre well rested, youll be better prepared to handle difficult situations. If you know you have a potentially stressful situation coming up, planning ahead can help you cope better with the event. Dont be afraid to decline invitations to events that may make you anxious and leave early if youre feeling uncomfortable.
Take time out of your day to unwind by doing something relaxing like listening to music, painting, yoga or going for a walkanything that helps you to forget your worries for a while.
Depression In Ms: A Symptom Or A Reaction
It is easy to assume that people with a chronic illness like MS will inevitably become depressed, says Beier. This incorrect assumption relies on the idea that depression is a reaction to MS. While this is possible, recent research has discovered that depression may also be a symptom.
For persons with relapsing-remitting MS , early in the disease, depression appears to be linked to inflammatory processes. Later, in the secondary-progressive phase, unhelpful thoughts, such as feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness are more frequent. So the depression in this case is thought to be more reactive linked to frustrations with lifestyle changes or loss of function, explains Beier.
Read Also: How To Combat Stress Eating
How To Address Ms
Depression, together with anxiety, may worsen thoughts of suicide and shouldnt be left untreated. In most cases, it can be effectively managed with a combination of antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy focuses on identifying and shifting thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that may contribute to emotional distress.
How To Stop Ms Anxiety
While you should talk to your doctor about ways to control your own personal multiple sclerosis anxiety, it’s not a bad idea to consider treating it like its own condition. Remember, most anxiety is caused by fear as a result of the disorder , not literally by the lesions in the brain . Furthermore, even when MS causes anxiety directly, your own coping ability can still contain that anxiety so that it doesn’t affect you as much.
Experts recommend the following to deal with MS-related anxiety:
- Exercise Talk to your doctor about exercising. Exercise is an east and natural way to reduce anxiety. It is a great natural antidepressant and tool for reducing your anxiety, especially when used in combination with other treatment approaches.
- Learn Breathing Techniques There are several breathing techniques that can also be useful for controlling anxiety. Deep breathing appears to be a very effective relaxation strategy, and the breathing techniques associated with yoga also seem to contribute to reduced anxiety and stress.
- Stay Busy/Active Inactivity and a lack of mental stimulation may trigger or worsen anxiety as well as make it more likely that you’re focusing too much on your disease. Keep yourself busy with projects and tasks so that you’re not overwhelmed by the illness.
Was this article helpful?
Recommended Reading: How To Get Stress Leave
Why Are Females More At Risk
Females may be more at risk of MS because their bodies suppress the immune system while pregnant.
Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked with MS. Some researchers believe that there is a link between MS and the differences in the ways that male and female bodies process vitamin D. However, more studies are necessary.
Other researchers theorize that X chromosomes play a direct role in autoimmune function. X chromosome inactivation in females may result in them having more MS susceptibility genes. Again, more research is necessary.
Lack Of Sleep Can Worsen Ms Symptoms
Getting enough restful sleep can be challenging when you have MS. Pain, restless legs, urinary or bowel symptoms, or temperature dysregulation are some of the top symptoms that can interfere with nightly zs, according to the National MS Society.
While no one likes being sleep deprived, it can be an even bigger issue for people with MS, says Dr. Conway. “Most people with MS have a lower reserve of energy,” and a lack of sleep can worsen MS symptoms, he says.
A 2018 review of studies published in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports found significant associations between sleep disturbance and cognitive dysfunction in MS. Objective sleep measures generally predicted objective impairments in processing speed and attention, according to the analysis.
Other consequences of poor sleep can include increased pain, anxiety, fatigue, and problems with coordination, according to the National MS Society.
In some cases, sleep difficulties for people with multiple sclerosis may be due to an underlying sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, says Scott Ireland Otallah, MD, a neurologist who specializes in multiple sclerosis at Atrium Health at Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
You May Like: What Does Stress Do To The Heart
Can Anxiety Cause Symptoms Of Ms
. Besides, can anxiety cause symptoms like MS?
Generalized anxiety and distressMS can cause significant anxiety, distress, anger, and frustration from the moment of its very first symptoms. The uncertainty and unpredictability associated with MS is one of its most distressing aspects. In fact, anxiety is at least as common in MS as depression.
Similarly, what are usually the first signs of MS? Common early signs of multiple sclerosis include:
- vision problems.
- cognitive problems.
Also to know is, can stress and anxiety cause MS?
While experts suggest that stress can contribute to MS exacerbations, there is also some evidence that the disease itself causes physiological changes that manifest as stress .
Can MS affect personality?
Changes in the ways people think, talk, feel, behave and express their emotions can affect people with MS. Not everyone who has MS will experience problems with their personality or behaviour. However, in these rare cases, both the per- son with MS and those around them may feel confused and anxious.
How To Tell The Difference Between Anxiety And Neurological Disorders
Unfortunately, there is simply no way to tell the difference between suffering from anxiety and suffering from a more serious neurological disorder. The symptoms can look extremely similar, and while some may have some minor differences , the reality is there are often no differences.
This is why it is important to always see a doctor. Even though anxiety is extremely common, a doctor is the only way to accurately determine if a person does/does not have an underlying neurological disorder. Once a doctor rules out any neurological problems, it is important to begin to take steps towards controlling the anxiety. Unmanaged anxiety will lead to continued neurological symptoms, and ultimately, more anxiety.
In the extremely rare event that a person does have a neurological disorder, controlling anxiety is still important. Anxiety plays a significant role in not only happiness and overall wellbeing, but also in the success of medical treatments. If there is any reason to think that you have anxiety and not a neurological disorder, openly seeking help is incredibly important.
Was this article helpful?
Recommended Reading: How To Calm Stress And Anxiety
How Is Ms Diagnosed
Diagnosing MS can be difficult, as some of the early symptoms can also be caused by several other health conditions. There is no single test for MS.
If your doctor or neurologist thinks you may have MS, they will refer you to a specialist MS neurologist. Specialist MS neurologists have access to the latest diagnostic tools and facilities, and an experienced MS healthcare team. This team can help you understand your new diagnosis, treatment and management options.
Everyone Experiences Ms Differently
Demyelination can occur anywhere in the central nervous system. For this reason, everyones experience of MS is unique. People with MS can experience a wide range of symptoms, and can be affected differently at various stages in their life.
After demyelination occurs, the brain works to repair the tissue and resolve the inflammation. While doing so it can redirect messages to other parts of your brain. It is a bit like travelling on a highway and being redirected to take an alternative road or path due to roadworks.
Even though the brain works to repair damaged tissue, the repair is often incomplete, and some nerve tissue is irreversibly destroyed. Over time, this leads to a decrease in brain volume, known as brain atrophy.
Healthy adults have a small amount of brain atrophy due to natural ageing, but in many people with untreated MS, brain atrophy occurs at a much faster rate. Current MS treatments aim to prevent new central nervous system lesions forming that lead to irreversible damage and brain atrophy. Current research is focused on finding ways to repair the damaged myelin and help prevent MS symptoms.
Watch this Jumo Health and MS Australia video about living with MS.
Recommended Reading: How To Help People With Stress