Thanks in part to the Ice Bucket Challenge, ALS support has skyrocketed to an all-time high. But in dealing with the physical symptoms of a disease, a person’s mental health often takes a back seat to their physical health. The Mayo Clinic has performed studies on the physical benefits of optimism and we need only think about the placebo effect to recognize the power the brain has over the body. While ALS targets only motor neurons, the loss of certain physical functions and disrupted sleep leaves people at risk for depression, which can have physical consequences.
Physical Effects of Depression in ALS
If you or your loved one have struggled to feel optimistic in the face of ALS, you are not alone. A recent study by the World Federation of Neurology Research Group on Motor Neuron Diseases estimates that nearly 30% of ALS patients suffer from depression. In addition to affecting mental health, depression can have physical side effects. According to MDA/ALS Newsmagazine, ALS depression left untreated can compromise the immune system and lead to further complications. If that sounds intimidating, remember that optimism also has an effect on the immune system. To reap the physical benefits of a positive outlook, consider one of the many support options available for those with ALS.
What Kinds of Support Are Available?
ALS-related depression usually centers on the effects of the disease, so finding an ALS support group with a mental health focus can be very effective. If you aren’t sure how to find one, foundations like the Les Turner ALS Foundation can help. But you don’t have to stick to traditional methods of support for ALS. Involvement in volunteer engagement activities with your local ALS Association chapter may lead to a more fulfilling lifestyle, where you and your loved one feel connected to your community. Learning practical workarounds for daily tasks can also make a huge difference in alleviating depression. ALSA.org has an entire manual dedicated to small adjustments you can make at home to support those with ALS.
Courage is a mental state. If your loved one is struggling with ALS-related depression, feel free to share your stories below.