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How to Nurture Mental Well-Being of Parkinson’s Patients?

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By AlbertalicePublished 2 months ago 8 min read
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Depression can affect any of us for any reason, and is a tough challenge to navigate. Those with Parkinson’s Disease have an even harder time battling Depression, and other mental health conditions because of all the other symptoms that coexist with it. Although motor impairment is the primary and most common symptom of Parkinson's, its effects on mental health are equally significant. Treat this blog as a guide on the intricacies of Parkinson's mental health, as we explore mood swings, mental symptoms, the importance of counseling, as well as effective strategies to boost emotional well-being for individuals navigating this challenging journey.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is one of the most common neurodegenerative conditions in the world. It primarily damages the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are both physical and neurological, these include tremors, unsteady gait, slurred or softened speech, impaired memory, mood swings, and delusions.

Parkinson's and Mental Health

Being a progressive neurodegenerative disorder means that PD will cause the gradual, yet continuous, deterioration of movement. The lack of movement, or the inability to perform voluntary movements can take a serious mental toll on the patient. The impact of motor symptoms, such as tremors and stiffness, can extend to emotional well-being. For instance, the frustration and limitations imposed by these physical challenges can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety. This is why it is important to go beyond the physical challenges, to fully understand how individuals with Parkinson's grapple with various mental health aspects. Only this can help adopt a comprehensive approach to care.

Mental Health Conditions Associated with Parkinson’s Disease

One of the common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease is Depression, caused due to chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression, in fact, could make many symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease worse, if left untreated. You may have Depression if you experience the following for more than two weeks at a stretch:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • A lack of pleasure in things you once enjoyed
  • Altered energy levels, including feeling tired more often
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor appetite or binge eating
  • Low mood and self-esteem

A condition that often manifests along with Depression is Anxiety, which involves prolonged periods of general unease and fear. Anxiety, like Depression, can affect the patient’s ability to maintain a normal social life. Uncertainty about the future, coupled with the day-to-day unpredictability of symptoms, can contribute to heightened anxiety levels.

Another mental health challenge that patients often face, takes the form of paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations. All three are common side effects of Parkinson’s medication, and involve a belief in something that isn’t actually true. With paranoia, the patient may feel like they are being watched or followed all the time. A delusion indicates a firm belief that something is true when it is not. For instance, the patient may suddenly believe that their nurse is out to kill them. Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing things that aren’t actually there.

Additionally, PD can lead to cognitive decline, impacting memory, attention, concentration, problem-solving, and executive functions, affecting overall mental well-being. Engaging in cognitive exercises, such as puzzles and memory games, can help maintain cognitive function.

Mood Swings in Parkinson’s

Often underestimated and relegated to a secondary symptom, mood swings are a result of fluctuations in dopamine levels and can really impact socio-communication skills.

The typical coping strategies for managing mood swings include:

  • Medication to maintain optimal balance and minimise mood swings
  • Lifestyle changes such as adequate sleep and physical activity
  • Open and honest communication with doctors and loved ones to facilitate a supportive and empathetic environment

Diagnosing Mental Health Conditions

Your doctor will ascertain that the mental health problems are linked to your Parkinson’s Disease, and not some other condition. They will typically run tests to check your lungs, liver, and kidney function as well as your blood work – as chemical imbalances in these organs could also cause mental health conditions. They will then look into all of the medication you take, including over-the-counter pills and alternative remedies, as these may also be the culprit.

Mental Health Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

The best way to treat Depression in Parkinson’s is through a combination of therapy and medication. Talk therapy helps the patient work through issues of feeling low and thinking less of oneself, while finding a new sense of self-worth. It also allows them to enjoy daily activities, special interests, and family time much more. Medication in the form of antidepressants is also valuable. The doctor will prescribe medication depending on the patient’s current health so that they do not interfere with other Parkinson’s Disease medication. Medication is also essential to keep delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations in check, along with a regular sleep cycle and more physical activity.

Prescribing mental health medication for Parkinson’s Disease can be tricky. Some of the Parkinson’s Disease medication could itself be causing mental health problems. On the flipside, certain mental health medication could interfere with Parkinson’s symptoms. Generally, the doctor will prescribe a combination of medication, to keep both in check with minimal side effects. Keep talking to your doctor at regular intervals about any changes you feel – good or bad, in your mental and physical health.

In many cases, lifestyle changes can help a great deal with conditions like Depression or Anxiety. Some changes you can consider include:

Regular exercise under the supervision of a physiotherapist

  • Cutting down or avoiding caffeine
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco
  • Trying aromatherapy, meditation, or other forms of relaxation
  • Getting enough sleep every night
  • Maintaining a nutritious diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables

Importance of Parkinson's Disease Counselling

At Plexus, we believe counseling plays a pivotal role in supporting individuals with Parkinson's, addressing the emotional and psychological dimensions of the disease. You have to remember, seeking counselling and asking for support is not a sign of weakness. It is a proactive step towards holistic well-being.

Counseling offers numerous benefits. Some people may encounter barriers, such as stigma or reluctance to discuss emotions. Counseling can help them break away from these shackles and engage in open communication. Other advantages of counseling include improved coping skills and enhanced emotional resilience.

At our centers in Bangalore and Hyderabad, we offer:

  • Personalized Counseling: We provide a space to explore emotions, cope with challenges, and develop strategies for maintaining mental health.
  • Family Counseling: We support loved ones to enhance understanding and support.

We recommend our Parkinson’s warriors and caregivers to join Parkinson's support groups and connect with individuals facing similar struggles. This will help foster a sense of community and shared understanding.

Holistic Approaches to Support Emotional Well-Being with Parkinson's

At Plexus, we offer regenerative rehabilitation programs to manage Parkinson’s symptoms and greatly improve the quality of life of those living with this condition. We follow a multidisciplinary approach comprising stem cell therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, agility training, bradykinesia management, functional retraining, and more.

In order to support the emotional well-being of patients and the caregivers, here’s what we do at Plexus:

Physical Activity

We incorporate regular exercise into everyday routines to improve mood and cognitive function.

Activities like walking, yoga, and tai chi are some of our most prescribed and much loved physical activities.

Art and Music Therapy

Art and music are great outlets to encourage self-expression and emotional release.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation exercises greatly contribute towards stress reduction and emotional balance.

There are several ways to treat mental health disorders in Parkinson’s patients, including lifestyle changes and counseling to enable a more positive outlook. If you are experiencing depression or any other mental health condition, please consult your doctor right away so that you can benefit from the right treatment.

FAQs

Does Parkinson's cause altered mental status?

Parkinson's primarily impacts motor function. However, cognitive changes can occur, leading to altered mental status. Conditions like dementia and cognitive decline may develop in later stages, affecting memory and thinking abilities.

What is the behavior of a Parkinson's patient?

Behaviors may vary from patient to patient depending on the stage of the disease, however emotional changes like depression and anxiety are common. As the disease progresses, mood swings and cognitive challenges may also manifest in some individuals,

Does Parkinson's change your brain?

Yes, Parkinson's induces structural and chemical changes in your brain. Motor symptoms are due to the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra leads. Furthermore, Parkinson's may also impact other brain regions, leading to cognitive decline and altered mental status.

What organs are affected by Parkinson's?

Although Parkinson's primarily impacts the brain, the disease can influence various organs. System issues like constipation are common, along with non-motor symptoms that impact overall health.

Read more about the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s here.

What part of the brain is damaged by Parkinson's?

Parkinson's damages the substantia nigra, a region in the midbrain that controls movement and is vital for dopamine production. The disruption to the secretion of dopamine leads to motor symptoms like tremors and bradykinesia.

Is end stage Parkinson's painful?

End-stage Parkinson's typically involves discomfort, however it is not universally painful. Stiffness, immobility, and potential complications like pressure sores are common symptoms.

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