If someone were to offer me the chance to eradicate one symptom of Parkinson’s, it would not be tremor, stiffness or slowness, which generally respond well to treatment. It is the non-motor symptoms that are the hardest to control such as low blood pressure, constipation, bladder problems and so on. Of all the non-motor symptoms, anxiety is the one I would most like to get rid of.
There seem to be two types prevalent in Parkinson’s. A generalised anxiety, which often comes on around diagnosis, and anxiety related to the effects of Parkinson’s medication wearing off. The first type is related to fears about the future and in many cases calms down and ((virtually disappears with counselling and medication. Sometimes, there are triggers such as unfamiliar surroundings or meeting new people. Anything that stresses the body will always make Parkinson’s symptoms harder to control. We can then get into a vicious cycle of becoming stressed, which makes Parkinson’s harder to control, leading to heightened anxiety, which causes more stress and therefore more Parkinson’s symptoms.
Learning techniques to stop this sequence of events can give back a feeling of control and help to lessen anxiety. Who can help in these situations? Psychological interventions such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness have been shown to have a big impact on managing anxiety. There is a self-referral service called Healthy Minds (healthymindsbucks.nhs.uk) where you can access therapy over the phone or in groups. Mindfulness is emerging as a therapy that can reduce anxiety – (for more information go to bemindful.co.uk). Exercise can also have a positive effect.
The second type of anxiety happens when Parkinson’s medication is wearing off and this is dysphoria (the opposite of euphoria). Getting your Parkinson’s medication right can make a big difference. If you think this may be happening to you please let me know as you will need a review of your medication.
More information on anxiety can be found on the Parkinson’s UK website (www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/anxiety-and-parkinsons-information-sheet).
Read the entire collection of articles from Liz since she started writing for us in 2010.