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Department of Neurology
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Where MS and Depression Overlap

MS can, as we all know too well, affect every part of the body that is controlled by the central nervous system. That means it can affect every part of the body.

The way in which MS attacks the brain, coupled with our system’s way of fighting back, can also lead to clinical depression.

I’m not talking about feeling sad and gloomy; I’m talking about a chemical imbalance brought on by many factors of life, and about MS causing a serious mental health condition called depression.

It’s important to realize when what you’re feeling is not just your MS — and when it may be time to look for help.

Is It Depression or MS?

Some of the common symptoms of depression can overlap or dovetail with symptoms of MS to the point that we may not realize what is happening to us. We must be diligent in recognizing the symptoms of depression in ourselves. It also helps a lot to have someone close to you who can speak up if they observe you exhibiting the multilayered symptoms of depression.

I share the following symptom comparison from my own recent experiences in the hopes that they might help you recognize the onset of depression in  so that you might find help.


I say of MS fatigue that it’s a “lie down or fall down” kind of tired. It’s like being one of the prisoners of war who falters while being marched for days on end in a bad film. MS fatigue is oppressive, it’s numbing, and it’s “mind-body-spirit” fatigue.

Fatigue from depression feels more like I can never get enough sleep. It’s a kind of sleep deprivation that leaves me tired from the moment I wake up. It feels different from MS fatigue’s “whole-being” experience in that it just feels like being tired, and it can bring on cranky spells like those of a child who is ready for his nap.

Cognitive Issues

Often called cog-fog in MS, cognitive issues can feel like just that: a cognitive fog. It’s often part of the MS fatigue blanket, but it can also show up on its own.

Cognitive issues due to depression can closely overlap those that are due to MS. I’ve found, however, that a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to completely understand things accompanies depression in a way that doesn’t happen with MS.

I guess — and this goes for all symptoms — that if it feels different from what you’re used to from your MS, it might not be your MS.


MS can put me in a funk sometimes, and I know I’m not alone in stating that. I can feel sad, blue, and even out of touch with the world due to MS.

My experience with mood and depression, on the other hand, is that I am somehow muted. It’s as if I’m experiencing the world through a window screen rather than a clear window.

I may notice it in my reaction to things I normally like or look forward to. Or it may show up as a shorter-than-normal fuse, a sense of agitation, or the feeling that I just can’t seem to shake an annoying insect. This is one of those effects of depression that the people close to you will likely notice before you do.


Here is one that might be more obvious, even if it takes a few days to notice: MS doesn’t usually have much of an effect on appetite. We may not eat as much, or we may avoid certain foods due to digestion issues, but a suppressed or exaggerated appetite is not a typical MS symptom.

Overeating or finding no interest in one’s grub should be a red flag for depression.


MS can also have its sexual symptoms, which usually center around the mechanics of sex. Vaginal dryness, the inability to maintain an erection, and the like are common among people with multiple sclerosis. Many times, however, it is other MS issues — such as muscle stiffness, pain, loss of sensation, etc. — that keep people with MS from being interested in sex.

With depression, the physical symptoms don’t come into play as much, because the mood just doesn’t seem to strike. Having a reduced interest in sex when you’re normally willing to figure out a way around the physical limitations might be another sign that you’re depressed.

Getting Help

Don’t hesitate to seek help if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression; there are medications that sometimes help. A good rehab psychologist can be invaluable. I even find that simply naming my enemy can go a long way toward feeling better.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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