“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” Hunter – Patch Adams ( one of the best performances by R. Williams)
In the advent of Robin Williams untimely demise, a great deal of spark and conversation has ensued around the topics of mental illness including depression anxiety and bipolar diseases well as their connection to Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
Let me begin by saying first that although there is news of Robin Williams’s early diagnosis with PD -we do not have any details on his actual neurological condition or whether he was on treatment or not?
Furthermore, we must recall that it has been said that he battled with bipolar disease most of his adult life. Bipolar disease is more likely to result in a higher suicide risk and suicidal ideation and behavior compared to Parkinson’s. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the severity of depression in any patient no matter the cause. And anyone suffering any type of mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar disease, etc. should seek immediate attention and get under the care of a specialist.
But we do need to be aware of some of the facts.
Depression is found to be more common in certain diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine, and stroke.
This depression is not caused by the fact that patients are given chronic progressive mostly incurable diseases; although, certainly the notion of having these illnesses has sometimes a negative impact on an individual and can accelerate or worsen symptoms. Furthermore, some of the medications used in the treatment of these illnesses themselves can cause depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. (e.g. amantadine, L-dopa, baclofen, bromocriptine, etc. while some meds that are used to treat pain in PD like those in the seizure class-depakote, lamotrigine, carbamaepine, etc.; and of course SSRi’s-Cymbalta, Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, etc. can be beneficial) in the majority of neurodegenerative diseases, the depression precedes the neurological deterioration as a harbinger of things to common.
In the case of PD, and Alzheimer’s these can be the very first clues of something amiss especially when there has never been a prior history of mental illness, depression or family history of such problems. According to the National Institute of Mental health roughly 18 million Americans suffer from depression yearly with a 12 month period. Depression is characterized by loss of appetite, although sometimes can be the opposite, loss of interest In things that used to bring pleasure and happiness, poor sleep or too much sleep, lack of energy, suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, feelings of guilt, and low self esteem these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks and the key is that the interfere with activities of daily living.
Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men which already puts PD women at higher morbidity this compounding effect maybe one of the reasons are now finding out that women with PD have more negative effects (meaning non-motor symptoms) like depression as opposed to men with PD who have more tremors (positive symptoms)…roughly about 50 % to 60 % of all PD patients suffer depression at one point during their illness and about 1/3 of patients present with depression as an early symptom before diagnosis. Yet despite this knowledge, the overall risk of suicide in PD is somewhat controversial. One study, in 2001 in the U.S. including more than 144,000 people with PD found the rate of suicide in general population to be 10 times greater than in the Parkinson’s population while another study done in 2007 in Denmark found the rate of suicide among PD patients to be equal to those in the general population. Another in 2009 said PD patients although appearing to be at higher risk for depression, they truly were not at higher risk for suicide compared to general population of Denmark. Yet, one thing this study highlighted was the increase in suicidal ideation (thoughts); this was found to be much greater among those with PD than in the general population. This last piece of information is vital to help us remember and keep in mind of the potential for a slip for those suffering from PD. The possibility of suicide is ALWAYS there and given the fact that some of the medications can trigger or worsen or even cause mood disorders, we have to be extra vigilant as patients, caregivers, and health care professionals to discuss this subject at every visit especially when there are concerns before symptoms get out of hand. There are many treatments for depression including medication. I have discovered that in PD patients, the first step is often a matter of adjusting medications if discussed early. In severe cases (ECT) electroconvulsive therapy has been instituted. Treatment of depression and other mood disorders often requires a team approach including a counselor, therapist (behavioral), psychiatrist, psychologist, and neurologist. (Don’t forget about caregivers too- they also have high rate of depression correlating with extent of care)
It is also extremely important to realize that the highest risk and higher than expected rate of suicide noted to date among PD patients has been among those that have undergone DBS particularly in those that had depression or were single. This is why is crucial if you are considering this treatment that you do not partake if you have no social support or have history of mood disorders like depression. (unless absolute last resort and are under strict supervision by a team of specialist as I described above throughout entire life-this is my opinion) Make sure that you seek opinion of an expert that has done thousands of DBS to get best outcome.
So, even though, we have lost a great entertainer and we mourn his loss, his passing although uncertain as to the cause which led him to his final acts of desperation has provided us with a stepping stone to a new beginning of discussions to remember to treat the person and NOT just the disease– no matter if its Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Multiple sclerosis, Bipolar disease or another chronic illness.
Let us remember to keep in mind all those that suffer mental illnesses like depression …..
If you have questions regarding your Parkinson’s or think that you might have Parkinson’s and depression
… I invite you to call the National HelpLine of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation at (800) 457 6676 or email us at email@example.com.
Dr. M. De Leon is a movement disorder specialist on sabbatical, PPAC member and research advocate for PDF (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation); Texas State Assistant Director for PAN (Parkinson’s Action Network). You can learn more about her work at http://www.facebook.com/defeatparkinsons101 you can also learn more about Parkinson’s disease at www.pdf.org or at www.wemove.org; http://www.aan.org, http://www.defeatparkinsons.blogspot.com All materials here forth are property of Defeatparkinsons. without express written consent, these materials only may be used for viewers personal & non-commercial uses which do not harm the reputation of Defeatparkinsons organization or Dr. M. De Leon provided you do not remove any copyrights. To request permission to reproduce release of any part or whole of content, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org contributor http://www.assisted-living-directory.com Contributor http://www.lavozbrazoriacounty.com