Dealing with MS Personality and Emotional Swings

Dealing with MS Personality and Emotional Swings

I have always found group settings to be challenging because of my shy and quiet personality. While I do fine talking to people one-on-one, gatherings of three or more can make me squirm.

Years ago, the company I worked for held monthly bonding sessions for its department heads. We played personality games to get to know each other better. One of those games involved everyone choosing one word to describe a prominent characteristic of each manager. At the end of the game, I was left holding 12 cards: all had the word “quiet” written on them.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me that; my introverted ways were well-established. The game did, however, make me aware of how others perceive me. I realized that my quiet nature doesn’t make it easy for people to get to know me, or I them. So I have worked on being more outgoing; it’s a work in progress.

Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010, I have noticed a gradual change in my emotions and personality. I have become more vocal; a good development, I think. I also seem to be more prone to anxiety and frustration, which, on occasion, can lead to unwelcome bouts of irritability and depression.

During those mood swings, I feel that my nerves are frayed and my patience thin. Excessive noise, temperature extremes, and stress, in particular, can be triggers for these episodes. I practice positive thinking to help me to get through those times.

Deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and keeping my mind on positive thoughts seem to be beneficial. An article titled “Emotional Well-Being” on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s (NMSS) website looks at the importance of having a positive focus. It states that “Emotional well-being is perhaps the most important component of overall wellness.” In essence, our emotional health status determines how we see ourselves and the world around us.

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I have discovered that having MS and needing to use a wheelchair and walker have affected my confidence. People appear to treat me differently. Sometimes I feel that I’m invisible because of my disability. I’m aware of the possible reasons for this perceived indifference, including that people don’t know what to do or say around me.

The NMSS article has some words of encouragement: “Like other aspects of wellness, emotional well-being can be nurtured and enhanced, even in the face of changes and challenges.” In addition to positive thinking, practicing resilience and focusing on staying centered can assist with balancing your emotions.

Have you noticed personality or emotional changes with MS? Please comment or join us in the MS forums to share your story.

You are invited to follow me on Instagram.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
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    • jennifer logan says:

      I have the same problem. I’ve become a bitter, cynical person. It’s not a good feeling to be that way. Especially when people closet to you don’t understand that it’s something that I have no control over. I try daily to change it but unfortunately it’s the faulty wiring!

  1. Selena Alger says:

    I can definitely relate. Thanks for posting. It helps when you are not the only one going through these challenges and emotions.

  2. I relate very well, Cyn. Though I am older than dirt (but not compost yet), being an introvert all my life has not been helpful as I have also now become familiar with walkers, sticks and rollators.
    You are correct in my estimation that people just don’t know what to say or how to help you when you may really need some help. This might be a culturally ingrained thing of “if you don’t know them, they don’t belong to your tribe.” sort of thing.
    I don’t know, but it is wonderful when help does come. I always feel I have been lifted into grace.

  3. Laurie Zoller says:

    I have noticed some changes as well. Depression when the pain level goes up. More anxiety at odd times. Worse anxiety symptoms, difficulty breathing, the shakes, ears roar, rapid heartbeat. It’s awful. I feel ya!

  4. LuAnn Sullivan says:

    I was diagnosed RRMS at age 54 but I had the disease for at least 15 years before that. Most of my early brain lesions were in my frontal lobe. Many of my symptoms involved personality changes. I used to be timid and a born again Christian. Once my frontal lobe was attacked, I became a very different person, bold, argumentative, risk taking, angry, and self destructive. I was not a nice person and I did not know who I was. This went on for about 5 years. Thank God and my family for helping me through this. I read up on a disorder called “frontal lobe syndrome” which helped me to understand what was happening to me. I am 62 years old now and I am mostly back to the real me except for occasional feeling of rage which I most times can control. I take 120 mg of Cymbalta each day and it has helped. So I definitely agree that MS does impact your personality.

  5. Shirley A. Nobbs says:

    Stress is the worst for me, dealing with businesses trying to scam me. I find myself going down hill going into brain fog and lassitude, I never get back to how I was previous to the encounter. I also have trouble with family members not understanding why I have problems with memory.

  6. Paula mieczkowski says:

    I can sooooo relate! lol. I’m reading this just mere minutes after I reamed my hubby out something awful. Usual 5 am morning. Him getting bread for work. Normally a really happy time. Retired and only working 3 days a week. Works for the NIH. The man deserves a medal! Prior to going to bed he always puts a load of laundry in the dryer of sweats a few old t- shirts we only wear around the house. Accidentally (not) there were a few items of mine. A t- shirt that I love and 2 pr. of Capri pants I wear were put in this load. Well routine is that he gives me the basket and I fold. When I saw these items I went crazy. Berserk is more like it! I started… you all know what I mean… called him every name in the book! I’m still experiencing the heart palpitations. I don’t care… I loved this t-shirt! It has to laundered in cold water and hung up to dry. Shirt has insignia of West Virginia Univerty on it. My grandkids (both) go to school there and I’m from their. This shirt was 20$. Living on a fixed income we all know I saved for this shirt. I normally try to wear it only to grocery store or causal places. Always being known for my impeccable dressing this stuff really gets to me. Can’t tolerate sloppy or unkempt clothing, hair, makeup etc. Hubby knows this. I should be soo appreciative that he even does the laundry! Along with taking care of my every need!! Wonderful wonderful man. This man loves me and I him. Normally we laugh all day everyday. We’re old now. Still very much in love. Why do I go off like I did over a freaking t- shirt??? I’m not even ashamed! Doesn’t happen often that I lose it. Never expect it. Just happens in nano second. Bam! This probably ruined his day and not mine… I’ve no remorse. Terrible. Hubby will text me when he gets to work per the usual routine. Also he forgot the life line necklaces we both wear. I’m lucky to be able to stand long enough to accomplish my daily routine. Very afraid of being alone and falling. Hubby is also alone at work. Runs a large warehouse and on a fork lift all day. Normally doesn’t have anyone there to get monkey cages and the Diabetic, overweight, high b/p etc. hence the lifeline alert necklace. Hells bells I don’t even know if he remembered his today. Normally I always remind him. Yes, gang MS IS an awful disease. Not cancer not Alzheimer’s, I’ll smile through this journey. However hurting the one person that you love the most is not acceptable in my eyes or my heart. Yes he’ll forgive me and life will go on. As for me …. I’ll spend a whole week being soo sorry yet not being able to explain this outburst or others. Welcome to my MS journey for today.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Paula,
      Thank-you for sharing your story. It’s inevitable to be moody and overreact sometimes when you don’t feel well! Take care, Debi

    • LuAnn Sullivan says:

      Paula I so much understand. We do not deserve this torment and neither do our loved ones. I know the guilt you feel after unleashing on my spouse for some senseless trigger. I have found that admitting this problem and apologising are steps to preventing the next rage. I wish you peace and comfort.

  7. Lmh says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said! The anxiety is just horrible, and can be all consuming. The pain and fatigue can make me so irritable. I’ve told my family countless
    Times it’s not them , I just don’t feel well.

  8. Cynthia Collier says:

    I’m definitely extroverted but dealing with further disability has made me quiet and sad. I notice people looking at me trying to walk with a cane, it’s beyond weird! Trying to stay positive

    • Debi Wilson says:

      I know MS can be difficult and overwhelming, Cynthia. I guess a good goal would be to try to get back to your extroverted self. It’s good to say we’re not gonna let MS win. Good luck you and thank you for sharing your story! Debi

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