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Coping with Parkinson's disease - dealing with stress, emotions and depression

“Sometimes it gets me down and that makes everything worse”

  • §The well-being of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and their ability to cope is greatly influenced by their psychological reaction to their condition. A positive attitude is essential if you are to maintain self-esteem, keep in good spirits and get the most out of life.

  • §A thorough understanding of the nature of PD and its effects will help you to maintain self-esteem, dispel unreasonable fears, reduce stress and promote independence. Active involvement in all decisions about the treatment of your PD will ensure that you feel more in control and so more confident about the future.

  • §People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are especially vulnerable to stress and may find it more difficult to deal with than others. This can manifest as unpleasant emotions such as tension, anger, fear or irritability; physical symptoms such as sweating, headaches, palpitations and muscular tension; uncharacteristic behaviours such as avoiding situations or over-reacting; and deterioration in relationships and coping with social situations.

  • §Even everyday situations can become stressful for people with PD; for example when you need to sign your name quickly in front of others, when you go to pay at the supermarket, or when getting on or off public transport. The more stressed you are, the worse your symptoms of tremor, rigidity and unsteadiness will be and this in turn makes it more difficult to cope.

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  • §There are many approaches you can use to reduce stress. It is important that you allow yourself plenty of time and do not need to rush. Try to prioritise activities and set yourself realistic goals to achieve. You will also benefit from keeping fit and taking regular exercise. Many find learning relaxation and breathing techniques and meditation or yoga are useful. Some people may benefit from spending time with a psychologist or counsellor.

  • §Feelings of low mood and anxiety are common in people with PD. They can develop at any stage and seem to be related more to the underlying chemical changes in the brain, rather than a reaction to the problems it can cause. Depression can be helped a great deal by appropriate medical and psychological treatment. Discussing your fears and concerns with professionals can help to identify ways to cope with them and lead you to develop a more positive outlook. Antidepressant drugs, though not effective immediately, can be useful in many cases.

  • §Speech problems, reduced body language and slower thinking associated with PD can have a big impact on your social life and lead to loneliness and isolation. You should try to maintain an active social network and replace lost social contacts with new ones.

  • §Sexual and family relationships can also suffer. Don’t hesitate to discuss openly your concerns about changing personal relationships with those close to you. Both sides can then make any necessary adjustments to ensure a continuing and fulfilling relationship.

Discuss your feelings and worries with your doctors and other professionals, who will be able to refer you for specialist help if appropriate.

The  Parkinson’s Disease Society (telephone +44 (0)20 7931 8080; http://www.parkinsons.org.uk) can also offer support and advice.

Useful websites include:

National Association for Mental Health



This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris