18 posts from December, 2011

Coping with Holiday Stress and Blues

Posted December 16th, 2011 by

All Types of Patients Are Susceptible to Holiday Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Or is it?

The holidays can be a time of merriment and joy marked by festive parties and family reunions.  But they can also be quite challenging.

Despite the great cheer advertised everywhere you look, some people find themselves struggling with stress, anxiety, loneliness and/or depression.  This phenomenon is sometimes called the “holiday blues.”  Add to that things like fatigue, insomnia and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – which affect many PatientsLikeMe members on a regular basis – and you have the recipe for a perfect holiday storm.

Here’s a look at how our patients are attempting to cope with the stresses of the season:

  • “Seeing all the lights, the preparations, the shopping for the holidays makes me dread what is coming.  I try to go to low-key places where there isn’t as much traffic and aren’t as many people.  I try to play down the importance of everything so I don’t become so obsessed with choices and opinions.  I take breaks.  LOTS of breaks.  I try to make sure I take them before I even become overwhelmed in the first place. And I try to find free things to replace some of the costs – either as presents or activities.” – Patient with major depressive disorder
  • “Having family meet on a major holiday is enough to upset the emotional applecart so to speak.  Try just to do an average job of cooking, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Take a break when you can…get involved in objective projects: carefully following a recipe or cooking something with your mind fully on it can help calm panic attacks.  If you are doing your best, that will be the best you can do.” – Patient with Parkinson’s
  • “It puts a lot of stress and pressure on me. I have three children who get a lil’ demanding, and then a husband who expects me to travel with three demanding children and then stay at relatives’ tiny houses, etc. The noise, the gossip, the fake hugs from relatives who really do not like me, it all honestly just ‘gets to me.’ But this year, I’m taking my power back by saying NO to the parts of the holidays in which I do not want to participate.” – Patient with bipolar I disorder
  • “Sometimes I get depressed because I’m usually one of those people who have to get assistance to give their children gifts for the holidays. I also get depressed because I don’t look the way I want to (I am overweight) and do not want people to see me like that. So the gatherings can be nerve wracking for me. [But] I am learning to let go of the ‘shoulds.’ Not easy, but it can be done.  If I am really not feeling up to something (I get exhausted really easily), then I allow myself to not go, or not run the thing like I used to, or only bring one thing instead of 3 or 4. Pacing myself has been a good thing to learn.” – Patient with fibromyalgia

Are you feeling signs of the “holiday blues”?  Are the demands on your time and your pocketbook starting to overwhelm you?  Before you pack up the car or welcome any house guests, check out these great tips from the Mayo Clinic for getting through the holidays with as much joy as possible.


Life with Parkinson’s Disease: What We’ve Learned

Posted December 15th, 2011 by

On Tuesday, our interview with blogger Steve Ploussard of “Attitude & Fitness Wins” revealed how one person is managing his Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Today we take a closer look at this progressive neurological condition using the data and experiences shared by our 5,920 PD members.

Age at Which Patients Experienced Their First Parkinson's Symptom

Taking a look at the makeup of our PD community, 52% are male, and 48% are female.  More than 98% identify PD as their primary condition, and just shy of 20% report experiencing their first symptom between the ages of 50 and 59.  Others report experiencing their first symptom anywhere from adolescence to their seventies.  (See the chart for a complete breakdown.)  What exactly are the symptoms of this condition?  Some of the most commonly reported include stiffness/spasticity, slowness, sexual dysfunction, memory problems, excessive daytime drowsiness and constipation.

As Steve’s interview revealed, Carbidopa-Levodopa (Sinemet) is one of the most commonly prescribed treatments for PD as it helps to control tremors, one of the most visible manifestations of the disease, and other movement dysfunctions.  Currently, more than 1,698 members report taking this medication, and 300+ of them have submitted Sinemet treatment evaluations, which review the drug’s effectiveness, side effects, dosage, cost and more.   Here’s what one patient writes about Sinemet on her evaluation:  “I notice my leg limp and motivation to walk improves dramatically when it kicks in. The tremor is much less.

Some of the Most Commonly Reported Treatments for Parkinson's, As Reported by PatientsLikeMe Members

Other commonly reported PD treatments include prescription medications such as Ropinirole (Requip), Pramipexole (Mirapex), Rasagiline (Azilect) and Amantadine; OTC supplements such as CoQ10; and surgical procedures such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).  Click on the treatment name to see the data we’ve amassed for each, including hundreds of treatment evaluations submitted by our patients.

This is just a sample of the wealth of experience and data to be found at PatientsLikeMe.  Dive in today to learn more about PD.