Depression is the most common mood disorder in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Standard antidepressant therapies are often used to treat depression in these patients. For reasons not yet understood, some medications for MS treatment (interferon beta, corticosteroids, benzodiazepines and baclofen) can trigger or worsen depression in susceptible patients.

A recent MS diagnosis may also contribute to depression once a person realizes it brings major lifestyle changes and understands that the progression of the disease itself could damage parts of the brain associated with emotions and behavior.

It is important to define which mood changes an MS patient might be experiencing as a result of the disease. Some people might experience sadness, grief, days filled with the blues, a loss of interest or apathy, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping, but if these symptoms last for more than two weeks, it could become a serious condition.

If left untreated, depression will likely reduce a patient’s quality of life and worsen MS symptoms such as fatigue, pain, and cognitive changes. Severe depression can be life-threatening because it may bring on suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Managing depression in MS

In addition to using antidepressants, some lifestyle changes might help ease the symptoms of depression. Exercise, yoga and meditation may ensure patients stay connected with a social network. Eating healthy foods is also important to a healthy mind.

Some antidepressants prescribed to patients with MS include:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride): This drug increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are natural substances occurring in the body that positively affect communication between nerve cells and/or restore chemical balance in the brain.
  • Effexor XR (venlafaxine): This drug also increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels. It is used to treat depression and types of anxiety such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
  • Paxil (paroxetine): This drug increases levels of serotonin. Paxil has a positive effect on chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with depression, anxiety, or similar conditions.
  • Prozac (fluoxetine): This drug also increases levels of serotonin. It is often used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, and some eating disorders.
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion): This drug works by increasing the amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior. It is used to treat major depressive disorder and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which are both common in MS.
  • Zoloft (sertraline): The exact mechanism of action of this drug is not clearly understood but it is thought that it positively affects communication between nerve cells and restores chemical balance in the brain.

It usually takes a few weeks for the full effect of antidepressants to be reached. The dose may need to be adjusted or the treatment may need to be changed if there are no noticeable benefits.

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.