5 posts tagged “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”

Parkinson’s disease + anxiety/depression: Stigma-busting for Mental Health Month

Posted May 31st, 2018 by

Stress. Anxiety. Depression. Have you experienced any of these along with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? As National Mental Health Month comes to a close, we’re highlighting how common these non-motor symptoms and mental health issues are among people with PD.

Plus, see some new research on the prevalence of feeling demoralized (vs. depressed) with PD, and explore how members of the PatientsLikeMe community try to manage their mental health.

Research shows that the vast majority of people with PD have non-motor symptoms (NMS) — with psychiatric symptoms (like anxiety, depression and psychosis) accounting for 60 percent of NMS in one large-scale study.

“That’s why taking action is important,” says Andrew Ridder, M.D., a movement disorders specialist at Michigan Health. “If you or a loved one has had a new diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, we recommend an immediate evaluation for depression, mood and cognitive problems. Frequent monitoring should also be done throughout the course of the disease.”

Dr. Ridder cites some key stats:

  • About 5 to 40 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have a clinical diagnosis of anxiety
  • Between 17 to 50 percent of patients with Parkinson’s have depression

“Anxious mood” and “depressed mood” are commonly reported symptoms of PD on PatientsLikeMe. Hundreds of members have reported a diagnosis of PD plus a mental health condition.

Work with your doctor or care team to find treatments that work best for you. Some of the treatments Dr. Ridder mentions for people with PD and depression or anxiety include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as paroxetine or sertraline
  • Serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy (learn more about types of therapy and finding a therapist)

He also discusses some lesser-known treatments, adjustments to carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet) regimens (to treat anxiety during “off” times) — as well as some treatments that are not prescribed or advised for people with PD — so check out his full article on PD and mental health (also, check out this video).

Anxiety and Parkinson’s

clinical diagnosis of anxiety is marked by frequent, long-term “feelings of worry, nervousness or unease that may be accompanied by compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” Dr. Ridder says some of these symptoms can be worse or occur only when Sinemet is wearing off, also known as “off times.”

Join PatientsLikeMe to see what members living with PD have shared about their experiences with anxious mood as a symptom (and the treatments they’ve tried) — after joining, click here. Nearly 300 members report having diagnoses of both PD and generalized anxiety disorder.

Depression and PD

“Depression and Parkinson’s have so many similar-looking symptoms that it is hard to tell the difference between them,” Dr. Ridder says. “It’s important to note, however, that depression is not a reaction to the disability. Rather, it seems to be related to the degeneration of specific neurons in Parkinson’s disease itself.”

Both PD and a depression can bring: sadness, pessimism, decreased interest in activities, slowing movements and fatigue. Clinical depression or major depressive disorder is often accompanied with guilt and self-blame, which you don’t often see in Parkinson’s disease depression, Dr. Ridder points out.

Join/log into PatientsLikeMe to explore what other members with PD have shared about their experiences with depressed mood as a symptom (and the treatments they’ve tried for it) here. Also, connect with about 300 members who say they’ve been diagnosedwith both PD and major depressive disorder.

Depression vs. feeling demoralized

New research published in the journal Neurology sheds light on how many people with PD may feel demoralized (and not clinically depressed). Among the 94 study participants with PD, 17 of them (18%) felt demoralized, while 19 of them were depressed.

“Demoralization is a state of feeling helpless and hopeless, with a self-perceived inability to perform tasks in stressful situations,” PsychCentral explains in a report about the new study. “With depression, a person usually knows the appropriate course of action and lacks motivation to act. With demoralization, a person may feel incompetent and therefore uncertain about the appropriate course of action. The two can occur together.”

Study author Brian Koo, M.D., says the distinction is important because “demoralization may be better treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy rather than antidepressant medication, which is often prescribed for depression.”

Get tips to help handle or prevent demoralization in this recent Parkinson’s Foundation blog post.

Let’s not forget stress

Stress refers to “the emotional, psychological, or physical effects as well as the sources of agitation, strain, tension, or pressure.” Stress can manifest itself both physically and mentally, so it’s also important to keep in mind in managing PD.

See how stress affects the PatientsLikeMe community as a symptom, and what members with PD have tried to help manage it. Also, check out the Michael J. Fox Foundation blog posts on 7 Apps for Stress Relief and Wellness and the benefits of low-key calming activities for overall well-being.

Explore the forums

As a logged-in member, click on these links to see what other members living with PD have shared in forum posts about:

And keep in mind that you’re not alone in experiencing these symptoms or conditions.

How have mental health symptoms or conditions affected you along with your PD? Make a comment here or join the community discussions through the links above.

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“It started tearing me down early”: Illustrator and writer Howie Noel shares about his upcoming graphic memoir on life with generalized anxiety disorder

Posted October 10th, 2017 by

Today is World Mental Health day, a day for education, awareness and advocacy, and that’s where Howie Noel’s story comes in. There are more than 30,000 members living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder on PatientsLikeMe, and it’s for people like these, people like him, that Noel wrote his semi-autobiographic illustrated memoir, Float. We recently sat down with him to talk about his book and how it came to be.

When art imitates life

Float is told from the perspective of three characters who act as symbols for Noel’s personality. The book follows the story of main character, David, and his experience living with generalized anxiety disorder. David has lost jobs and lovers, but the one constant in his life has always been Anxiety, and when his wife leaves him, he asks Anxiety to take over.

Graphic memoir about anxiety

Noel, a comic illustrator based in New Jersey, wrote and illustrated the book and draws material from his own experience living with generalized anxiety disorder. “In Float, anxiety begins as an inner voice that offers advice. That advice is not helpful but it’s comforting because it’s coming from my mind. Unfortunately, a lot of anxiety’s ideas are harmful and dangerous.” Noel says that throughout the book, one of the main struggles is to fight the urge to give in to anxiety’s most harmful suggestions. “Dealing with anxiety, you have to recognize that these thoughts are bad ideas and often irrational. Anxiety deals in fear and uses your mind as a weapon. You have to stay strong and fight back using your willpower.”

So, how does an illustrator with anxiety draw it as a character? We’ve often seen the condition depicted as a dark scribble or a monster, but Noel took a different approach. Anxiety is played by an alluring and charismatic rock star who is fighting for David’s undivided attention. “Anxiety wants to be the only friend you have,” Noel says of the character, “It’s an abusive and dangerous relationship because anxiety really wants me to be alone.”

Reflecting through words

The process of creating Float was more than just work, Noel says. “While working on Float I discovered a lot about my history with anxiety,” he said. “Creating the book urged me to reflect on moments in my past where anxiety caused me pain. It helped me discover how I let it control me and how I’d give in when I should’ve been fighting back.” Noel shared one of his earliest memories of experiencing anxiety, one that he didn’t even realized was anxiety-related until undertaking this endeavor. “One of the things that stands out most to me is discovering that my first anxiety attack occurred in first grade. I was being tested for the gifted class and according to the test-giver I started hyperventilating. As a result, I couldn’t finish the test. Looking back, I now realize this was an anxiety attack caused by the fear of the test and the time limit I was under. Unfortunately, the test-giver wasn’t able to recognize what was happening and, since then, we’ve all learned more about mental health and generalized anxiety disorder.”

Pairing language with music

For this creative project, Noel collaborated with friend and musician Victor Guest, who recorded a sound track to accompany the book. “With Float, I wanted to create a true art project that would give the viewer a special experience,” Noel said. “I’ve been friends with Victor for a long time and I’ve always been a fan of his music. I knew that he could help bring Float’s message to a new level by using music to express its story. It’s a way to help further spread the message about a battle with anxiety.”

Understanding life with anxiety

While Noel wrote this book for himself and those living with anxiety, he also wrote it for those who aren’t, who have no understanding of life with the condition and the challenges that come with it. His vibrant illustrations and descriptions offer some insight into what people with generalized anxiety disorder experience daily. “Many sadly believe that people who suffer from it are weak when, in fact, it’s the opposite. It takes true strength to continue on once you learn you can’t trust your own thoughts.”

Noel will be debuting the book at New York Comic Con and plans to release it on World Mental Health Day, October 10th. By speaking publicly about his diagnosis, he hopes to raise awareness and fight back against the stigma so often attached with the condition. “We have to talk about it and share lessons. We need to acknowledge that anxiety doesn’t have to drown us. We can float.”

To find out more about Howie Noel and Floatcheck out his interactive website, where you can also find links to social media to connect with Howie Noel directly.

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