When a doctor diagnoses a patient with multiple sclerosis, she may note that the patient also has a psychological condition. These emotional changes can occur as the result of several scenarios. For example, these symptoms may be a reaction to the diagnosis: the National Multiple Sclerosis Society noted that patients may experience grieving if the disease interferes in their ability to perform certain activities. Some of the psychological symptoms that may occur in multiple sclerosis stem from the demyelination. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder: the patient's immune cells attack the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), causing damage to the myelin sheath, which covers part of the neuron. In other cases, emotional changes may result from medications like corticosteroids.
A common psychological issue that multiple sclerosis patients may have is depression, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Clinical depression is different from grief: depression symptoms last about two weeks and are persistent. Symptoms include a low mood, fatigue, problems sleeping and a loss of interest in activities. Patients may feel hopeless or have feelings of inappropriate guilt. In severe cases, patients may have suicidal thoughts; if this occurs, medical help should be sought.
Multiple sclerosis patients may also experience anxiety. As the National Multiple Sclerosis Society explained, anxiety can result from a lack of knowledge about the disease, when the next exacerbation will happen, and how severe the disease may get.
Some multiple sclerosis patients experience severe psychological issues. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted that 10 percent of multiple sclerosis patients suffer from conditions such as bipolar disorder and paranoia. With bipolar disorder, patients have periods in which their mood is depressed, and other periods in which their mood is abnormally elevated, called mania. When a person is in a manic state, she may be agitated, have little need for sleep, participate in reckless behavior, and be hyperactive.