Managing Mental Health with Parkinson’s Disease

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. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease itself, there are several ways to manage mental health conditions to the point where they no longer affect your daily life. Here’s a quick guide to maintaining your mental health when you’re also battling Parkinson’s Disease.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease 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. 

Mental health conditions and 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.

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 Disease 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.

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 Disease 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

In conclusion, there are several ways to treat mental health disorders in Parkinson’s Disease patients, including lifestyle changes and counselling to enable a more positive outlook. If you are experiencing Depression or any other mental health condition, bring it to the notice of your doctor right away so that you can benefit from the right treatment.

Dr Na'eem Sadiq is a respected stem cell specialist at Plexus, and a prominent neurologist in Bangalore. He studied neurology and clinical neurophysiology in London, and worked with some of the most prestigious medical institutions in England, and the Middle East. He completed his MBBS at Bellary Government Medical College, and a postgraduate degree in psychiatry from NIMHANS in Bangalore.

Dr Na'eem has perfected his knowledge and expertise in Continuing medical education (CME), and training in tissue culture, Stem Cell Therapy, and neurology. Dr Na'eem Sadiq possesses an undying passion to improve people’s lives. This led to the creation of Plexus, a neuro and Stem Cell Research centre in Bangalore in neurosurgery, and neurorehabilitation.