Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the first year of diagnosis frequently suffer from depression, pre-morbid personality, self-perception issues and other psychological problems, an Italian study finds. Yet it is hard to predict the degree of symptoms since MS takes a different course in each individual.
The study, “The first year after diagnosis: psychological impact on people with multiple sclerosis,” appeared in the journal Psychology, Health and Medicine.
Researchers have been studying the effects of a MS diagnosis in patients for up to four years and have found increasing levels of anxiety, depression and distress.
This led researchers at Italy’s San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan to conduct an analysis of the psychological changes in patients with MS. In particular, they looked at anxiety, depression, impact of diagnosis, problem-solving difficulties, fearfulness, obsessions, compulsions, personality and quality of life.
The study included 38 newly-diagnosed MS patients — 22 women and 16 men — who were assessed using the following: Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale, Beck Depression Inventory-II, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Psychophysiological Questionnaire-Revised, Fear Survey Schedule, Maudsley Obsessional-Compulsive Questionnaire, Impact of Event Scale-Revised, Personal Meaning Questionnaire, Problem Solving Inventory and Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life.
About 40 percent of patients showed “depressive symptomology,” the study results show; in addition, 65.8 percent dealt with their MS diagnosis by simply avoiding it.
Quality of life questionnaires also demonstrated that patients’ self-perception and psychological well-being had changed. So, too, did their perceptions of health unrelated to the neurological issue.
It is crucial that the attending neurologist have a complete understanding of the psychological changes that newly diagnosed MS patients go through; this can help improve a patient’s quality of life. It can also help patients participate in making decisions about their own treatments and how to stick to them.