Multiple Sclerosis and Depression Mixture

Depression is common among patients with MS

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Dealing with a debilitating disease is challenging on its own. Add depression on top of it, and the burden of disease is crippling. For many patients with MS, that's reality.

One in two patients with multiple sclerosis develop depression, according to Dr. Anthony Feinstein, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He's the author of a new paper reviewing the connection between MS and depression in patients, and how it's treated.

Dr. Feinstein told dailyRX that there's a growing awareness of the prevalence of clinical depression among those who treat MS.

"Depression in patients with MS is treatable."

It's not news that people with MS are likely to experience depression during the course of their disease. But the importance of dealing with depression hasn't always been recognized in the neurological community.

“A lot of depression is missed,” Dr. Feinstein said. “But when it is detected, it's often not well treated.” He said that many doctors may be more focused on treating the neurological symptoms of MS, and not follow up adequately on the mental health aspect of treatment.

Data suggests that nearly a quarter of MS patients contemplate suicide, at much higher rates than the general population. Young males within the first five years of diagnosis are at highest risk, according to his paper.

In patients with MS, depression has been associated with structural changes in the brain. MS is characterized by neurological attacks, which create lesions in the brain. Dr. Feinstein points to a recent study revealing that depressed patients were more likely to have a higher volume of lesions in parts of the brain associated with depression.

He also notes that despite the prevalence of depression among patients with MS, there are relatively few studies on how patients react to anti-depression medication. But anti-depressants can work, Dr. Feinstein says, and so can therapy. “Mindfulness based intervention” is a newer approach that's shown promising results.

Dr. Feinstein concludes that there are a number of effective treatments that a clinician can use to treat depression. The challenge, he told dailyRX, is to broaden the understanding of depression and treatment. MS patients with depression are dealing with a heavy burden of disease, and alleviating their mental health symptoms will allow them to better cope with their neurological condition.

Dr. Feinstein's paper is published in the November edition of the journal Multiple Sclerosis.


Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 10, 2011
Last Updated:
November 12, 2011