Depression and multiple sclerosis have a larger connection than most might assume. With any chronic illness, an individual’s mental health can be significantly impacted by their condition. While multiple sclerosis has a wide range of symptoms that a person might experience, depression is the most common comorbid condition of this chronic illness. It is important for those with this illness to be aware of the effect it can have on their mental health, and have treatment and support available to them. Although multiple sclerosis is not curable, there are many ways individuals can improve their mental health when dealing with their condition.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis, also known as “MS,” is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, which make up the central nervous system. The central nervous system (CNS) controls everything an individual does and is a vital part of human functioning. If the CNS is not functioning properly, it can affect a wide range of bodily functions.
The root cause of MS is not known; however, it is known that something causes the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. This results in damage to the myelin which is a layer that protects and insulates the nerve fibers, resulting in a disruption of signals to and from the brain. The disruption can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness, and paralysis. Physical therapy and medications to suppress the immune system can help with these symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental illness that is quite common and is a serious condition. It negatively affects how a person feels, thinks, and acts. While having a depressed mood is the primary sign of depression, an individual can develop many symptoms. Loss of interest in activities an individual once enjoyed, changes in appetite or loss of energy are common symptoms of depression. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping or sleeping too much and slowed movements or speech, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, as well as thoughts of death or suicide.
One in six people will experience depression in their life. Low activity in certain areas of the brain can be a biological reason for depression. Exposure to neglect, abuse, and violence can make a person more likely to experience depression.
Depression and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis can cause a serious decline in the mental health. Clinical depression is oftentimes more frequent among people with multiple sclerosis than in many other chronic illnesses. About 25 to 50% of those with MS will develop depression, which is approximately 2 to 5 times more prevalent than the general population. A diagnosis can bring on a great deal of stress, as well as feelings of hopelessness for someone with the disease. Having to go through routine treatment and experience debilitating symptoms can easily cause an individual to develop depression.
Because there is significant overlap in symptoms between Depression and MS (including fatigue, reduced appetite, poor concentration, memory deficits, and insomnia), a diagnosis of Depression can often be missed in those with MS. The most commonly observed symptoms among individuals with MS and Depression are persistent low mood, anhedonia, diurnal mood variation, pessimistic thoughts, suicidal ideation, and impaired functioning that is out of proportion to the associated physical disability from the MS.
TMS and Multiple Sclerosis
Studies boast exciting evidence for TMS as a reliable, effective and safe treatment for MS symptoms. The electromagnetic pulses of TMS can optimize the brain’s functional activity. In a study with 17 patients experiencing MS, participants completed memory tasks after 3 TMS sessions (baseline, real TMS, and a placebo).The results support TMS improves working memory, cerebral activation, and functional connectivity.
The benefits of TMS are likely due to its unique capacity to promote the brain’s regeneration through neuroplasticity. Although the effectiveness of treatment can vary, the positive effects of TMS on critical areas of the brain make it an attractive option.
A major aspect of MS is brain volume loss which creates motor and cognitive disabilities. These disabilities can cause depression, energy, and cognitive loss. Studies have shown that TMS treatment can help improve spasticity, fatigue, lower urinary tract dysfunction, manual dexterity, gait, and cognitive deficits related to working memory in patients with MS.
Luckily, TMS can be a great treatment option for those with Major Depressive Disorder and MS. It can be very helpful in increasing energy levels and cognition in MS patients.
TMS Improves Manual Dexterity
Further evidence suggests that greater activation of TMS can reduce the functional disorganization that can be a roadblock for MS patients. A study with 8 patients experiencing cerebellar symptoms (dysmetria, intention tremor, dysarthria, etc.) found that a frequency of 5-Hz significantly reduced the time it took to complete the given task immediately after stimulation. Consequently, patients’ manual dexterity improved significantly. Additionally, TMS has also increased task-related functional connectivity. After TMS treatment, the connectivity parameters related to bodily functions are higher and can allow for greater task loads. MS patients can benefit from TMS by finding agency over their movements after continuous treatment.
NYC TMS Treatment for Depression
Treatment for depression can come in many forms. Out of 13 clinical studies examining the success of psychotherapy and/or medication-based treatment in those with depression and multiple sclerosis, 9 of them showed an improvement in the severity of patients’ depression. Many individuals with this mental illness may choose to use medication or seek therapy. In combination, these two treatments can be very effective. However, these forms of treatment may not work for everyone. This is where transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be the right choice for a person experiencing depression. TMS is a non-invasive, safe procedure that uses magnetic pulses to activate specific areas of the brain where low activity can cause depression.
Mid City TMS is a New York-based TMS center, offering TMS services to patients with depression. Providing optimal care to those with depression, Mid City TMS offers convenient, effective treatment. Contact us today to learn more about TMS and if it is the right option for you.