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For people with Parkinson’s, depression is quite common and disabling—and it is the symptom most often overlooked. Up to 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease experience mild or moderate depressive symptoms. In fact, research suggests that the disease itself causes chemical changes in the brain that may lead to depression.
Parkinson’s affects many parts of the brain that are important in controlling mood. One of these is the area that produces serotonin, a brain chemical implicated in depression. Another part of the brain important in regulating mood—the frontal lobe—is known to be under-active in Parkinson’s. Commonly prescribed antidepressants can help. In addition to medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been shown to help some people with Parkinson’s.
Other researchers have found that people with Parkinson’s who were depressed had more trouble with daily activities, and were more likely to begin medication for motor symptoms sooner than those without depressive symptoms. Depression decreased their quality of life and made their motor symptoms worse—but treating the depression, rather than the motor symptoms, improved both quality of life and movement. If you feel you are doing very poorly, yet your doctor finds only mild physical impairments during your exam, you may be depressed. Depression can range from feelings of sadness and discouragement to extreme hopelessness. These feelings generally are different from the grief and frustration you may feel as a result of your diagnosis.
Tell your doctor if you are having these symptoms.
Combating Depression in Parkinson's Disease
Category: Non-Motor Symptoms and Complications of Parkinson’s
Resource Type: Publications
Publication Date: 2009
Author: Matthew Menza, M.D.
Publisher: Parkinson's Disease Foundation
Toll Free: (800) 457-6676
Associated URL: www.pdf.org/en/combating_depression; www.pdf.org/en/factsheets
Address: 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509
City: New York Zip:10018
State: New York
This fact sheet offers strategies for dealing with depression, one of the major and most common challenges for people living with Parkinson's. Also offered in Spanish.