As you probably know, problems with thinking, memory and concentration (sometimes grouped together as cognitive problems) are common in people living with MS. As we age, some of our cognitive abilities start to decrease. But, about half of all people living with MS will develop problems with cognition at some point in their life.
Having problems with cognition can make a number of things difficult. People can experience:
- Trouble completing tasks
- Problems with participating in group discussions
- Difficulty processing information
- Find making decisions hard
- Emotional and psychological problems
From changes in your mood to depression and anxiety, MS often has a significant effect on emotional health. It’s important not to overlook your emotional wellbeing or to dismiss how you’re feeling as a reaction to your MS diagnosis, as this can be caused by MS itself.
MS can interfere with the transmission of signals that affect mood. Studies have suggested that depression is more common among people living with MS than it is in the general population.
Emotional problems with MS can be wide-ranging but include problems with:
- Depression or anxiety
- Self esteem
- Mood swings
- Managing cognitive problems
You may have already found a few ways to deal with any cognitive difficulties you are having such as writing things down so you don’t forget them or giving yourself more time to do certain tasks. You might also find it useful to get some advice from your doctor or MS nurse. They may be able to help you identify the areas where you could benefit from some help as well as suggesting some exercises or tips.
Charlotte lives with MS and finds that her cognitive problems impact her day-to-day life, here are some of her strategies for managing her symptoms:
- Take more breaks - if you find that you can’t concentrate for too long take regular but short breaks
- Prioritise tasks – start with the ones that require the most attention and concentration and leave the easier ones for when you are likely to be more tired
- Try meditation or mindfulness – it can help you to relax and get your thoughts in order; have a look at our Mindfulness and Relaxation page.
- Keeping your mind active – challenge your brain by doing different things, reading or seeing friends
- Make your memory work – if you have a subject you are passionate about and enjoy try taking a course, it can help to keep your mind sharp
If you would like to read Charlotte’s full blog you can find it here.
- Managing emotional problems
If you are experiencing emotional problems, whether its depression, stress, anxiety or any other troubling feelings, there are a number of approaches that could help. If you’re experiencing any emotional problems, it’s best to talk to your doctor or MS nurse and they might suggest some of these ways to help. They are sometimes called talking therapies or psychological therapies. Here are a few they might recommend:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this is a therapy that helps you to understand how certain situations can influence how we think and feel. This therapy can help you to use strategies to help you adopt new ways of thinking
- Mindfulness – we have talked about this meditative technique quite a bit in our section Mindfulness and Relaxation which can be found here. This therapy is a way to help you to understand and accept your emotions
- Counselling – talking to someone can really help you to put things in perspective and to manage different situations
Talking things through can feel like a big relief whether it’s with friends, family or an MS support group.
- Useful links