Managing the Emotional Impacts of Challenging Symptoms

The first few years living with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) are often described as a whirlwind. No one prepares for a chronic illness, especially one as unpredictable as MS. While you work closely with your neurologist and other specialty care physicians to manage the physical symptoms that may present, how do you manage the emotional impact that a chronic illness may put forward.

Symptoms such as Pseudobulbar Affect that are characterized by sudden, uncontrollable expressions of laughter or crying without an apparent trigger can be challenging to emotionally manage. These episodes often occur in public settings and can draw unwanted attention. It is important to remember that Pseudobulbar Affect is a symptom that is a direct result of a neurologic condition; it is not an indicator of a hidden or suppressed feeling. For some who experience this symptom, they question whether or not the inappropriate laughter or crying is an actual feeling that perhaps they were not aware of; this is not the case.

Embarrassing or troubling symptoms call in to question self-worth and can directly impact the way you feel about your MS. These feelings are normal and come along with the grieving process that is associated with chronic illness. Finding support through a friend or family member or even seeking the support of a mental health counselor can be beneficial. The following tips can also be of support during these emotional times:

  • Remain present: Harboring too much thought and attention to things in your past or in the future can cause unwanted stress and anxiety.
  • Value yourself based on your present abilities. Remain positive about what you can do now, versus what you could do before.
  • Put yourself first! Understand your needs and identify ways to meet those needs.

The MS Conversations blog is a support to the entire MS Community. Please use the comment section below to share your story, or to support to another individual with MS.

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