Parkinson’s disease (PD) is known mainly for its motor disabilities, but little is known but how it affects mental health conditions. Parkinson’s patients suffer from a host of mental issues like anxiety, depression, hallucination and dementia. About 60% of the people with Parkinson’s disease experience depression while 25-45% of them suffer from anxiety.
Parkinson’s is a neuropsychiatric condition which is both chronic and progressive. Dealing with such a debilitating disease can take a toll on a person and this is why most of them suffer from some a form of mental illness. This fact should be understood by both the family, the caregivers, the nursing attendants and everyone who interacts with people with Parkinson’s disease. This is why there is a dire need for Parkinson’s support groups to spread awareness and educate people about this disease and help the PD patients to cope with their mental health better.
Mental health conditions associated with Parkinson’s disease
This mood disorder shows up in patients even before the other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease develop. Caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, depression is very common in people with Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms are
- Low self-esteem and confidence
- Disinterested in daily activities
- Inertia or laziness
- Lack of appetite
- Too little or too much sleep
- Inability to concentrate
- Suicidal thoughts
Treatment– PD patients are treated for depression with both psychotherapy and medications like antidepressants like Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Hallucination, Paranoia, Delusion
“Imagining objects or situations which are not there” is called Hallucination. Paranoia is an obsessive thought of some fear like someone stalking them, calling them etc. Delusion is having false or incorrect beliefs despite there the existence of contradictory evidence. PD patients may be a victim to any of the above 3 mental health conditions.
Treatment– Medication like Clozapine, Olanzapine and Quetiapine control hallucinations without intensifying the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Anxiety is also relatively common in PD patients and is characterized by the following symptoms
- A feeling of uneasiness, discomfort, worry and fear
- Nervousness and agitation
- Palpitations and shortness of breath
- Sudden outbursts of anger etc.
Treatment– Anxiety in PD patients is treated by using anti-anxiety medications, psychotherapy, exercise, meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques. Cognitive-based therapy is especially effective while dealing with PD patients suffering from anxiety.
Ways to combat mental health conditions in people with Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s support groups can play a crucial role in helping PD patients to cope up with their mental issues by suggesting the following treatment methods.
- Exercise– PD patient must exercise 2- 3 times a week and that too in a group. This helps them to fight depression and sleep well.
- Diet– a healthy diet is a must for PD patients. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and avoiding coffee, tea alcohol or fizzy drinks at night can reduce anxiety significantly.
- Sleep– Adequate sleep in a quiet and comfortable setting is a must for PD patients.
- Psychological therapies– PD patients with anxiety or depression can undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy.
In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the patient is taught to analyze their thought processes on the difficulties they face and alter their thinking to get positive results.
Interpersonal Therapy teaches PD patients to interact with others in a better manner to improve their mental health.
- Other therapies– PD patients must adopt some relaxation techniques using some alternative therapies like Aromatherapy, Music Therapy, Tai-chi, yoga, Meditation, Massage etc.
Parkinson’s disease and its allied mental issues cannot be treated with medications alone as some antidepressants tend to heighten the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and hence must be used with caution. Instead, involving PD patients in Parkinson’s support group activities to offer alternative therapies would definitely be the best solution for improving their mental health.