Parkinson’s Often Linked to Depression

Depression affects millions of Americans each year. Often, the root of the sadness is a chemical imbalance but is sometimes directly linked to other illnesses. There is hope, however, in the form of psychological and pharmacologic treatments.

August 20, 2014 – LOS ANGELES, California – The recent death of red carpet icon Robin Williams has done more than shock the nation. His apparent suicide has begun shedding light on a disease that is often suffered in silence: Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s is known for its most visible symptom, uncontrolled shaking, especially of the hands. It is a condition that affects the functions of the brain that control nerve impulse. Parkinson’s also affects certain parts of the brain that control mood and feeling. People with Parkinson’s may have an under active frontal lobe that contributes to  depression. Behavioral treatment is sometimes effective but, in many cases, antidepressants are needed to restore feelings of normalcy.

Individuals with Parkinson’s, especially as it progresses, can have difficulty with everyday activities. Motor function impairment makes simple chores like brushing teeth and pouring coffee tasks that requires assistance. Further into the disease, the sufferer may have to change their daily routine altogether as Parkinson’s can cause blackouts, making driving, bathing, and independent living virtually impossible.

Doctors have found that those with Parkinson’s and depression often find that both conditions are eased by treating the depression. This flies in the face of previous medical belief that one must treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s to find any relief. What researchers are seeing is that treating the apparent common neurologic aspect of these disorders tends to take stress off the afflicted which helps them better cope with their symptoms.

According to Dr. Matthew Menza of the Robert Wood Medical School, Parkinson’s-related depression may be lessened through a combination of lifestyle changes and psychological treatments. Regular exercise, maintaining a strong social circle, and eating a healthy diet can improve overall wellness. Psychological treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy, stress management, and relaxation techniques are all also very powerful in the fight against physical decline.

Antidepressants are widely available for those with Parkinson’s and can be tailored to the individual’s specific need. Medications which alter the brain’s output of serotonin and norepinephrine tend to be most effective.

Parkinson’s can affect anyone at any age but is most prominent in individuals over 50 who have a family history of the disease. Living with Parkinson’s and coping with the symptoms is not an easy task and is made even more trying with the onset of related depression.

For more information about Parkinson’s disease visit the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation online at



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