Canadian Study Links Psychiatric Disorders and Physical Disability in Women with MS

Alice Melão, MSc avatar

by Alice Melão, MSc |

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Psychiatric disorders and MS

Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders contribute to physical disability in women with multiples sclerosis, according to a Canadian study that confirmed the results of previous research.

The article the team wrote, “Psychiatric comorbidity is associated with disability progression in multiple sclerosis,” appeared in the journal Neurology.

Several studies have suggested that psychiatric disorders are common among MS patients. Brain inflammation linked to MS’s underlying mechanisms has been reported as a potential driver of depression and anxiety in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). Also, children with MS are known to be more susceptible to psychiatric disorders than other children.

These findings raise the question of whether psychiatric disorders contribute to MS progression and patient outcomes.

A Canadian team decided to study the issue. The team, led by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie of the University of Manitoba, analyzed records on 2,312 adults who had been diagnosed with MS, 76 percent of whom were women with relapsing MS.

The records were from two provinces that represent about 15 population of the Canadian population — the British Columbia Multiple Sclerosis database and Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie Multiple Sclerosis Research Unit database.

During a follow-up period ranging from 6.2 to 14.8 years, 36 percent of the patients developed a mood or anxiety disorder. The most common was depression (37 percent), followed by anxiety (22 percent), and bipolar disorder (5 percent).

In results that were in line with previous reports, researchers found that patients with a mood or anxiety disorder had worse physical disability scores, measured by scores on the expanded disability status scale (EDSS). This trend was found in both men and women, but it was only statistically significant in women.

For a more detailed understanding of the association, the team re-analyzed data according to individual disorder. They found that only depression was significantly associated with higher EDSS scores. This suggested that anxiety and bipolar disorder did not contribute to physical disability in MS patients.

Collectively, the results suggested that psychiatric disorders, particularly depression, can contribute to MS progression and the “severity of subsequent neurologic disability,” the researchers wrote.

“Optimizing management of psychiatric comorbidities [disorders] should be explored as a means of potentially mitigating disability progression in MS,” the team suggested.

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