Better Me

Tips to Promote Mental Well-Being for People Living with Parkinson’s Disease

When you think about Parkinson’s disease (PD), it’s natural to focus on the physical challenges. After all, PD is a neurological movement disorder with symptoms that develop slowly and get worse over the years. It affects the way a person moves and people living with it may have symptoms like tremors, stiffness, gait problems and balance issues.

Parkinson’s disease can also have a big impact on mental health. “Because this is a brain disease, most people also experience non-movement symptoms like anxiety, apathy, depression, cognitive changes or psychoses that affect their emotional health and well-being,” said Lori Nisson, a licensed clinical social worker with Banner Sun Health Research Institute and Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

The changes PD cause in the brain can lead to changes in mood and emotions. People may also experience reactions like frustration, fear and grief over lost abilities. Tremors and other motor issues can make them feel vulnerable and impact self-esteem. 

Strategies for managing emotional well-being

If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease, you can take steps to manage emotional well-being and physical symptoms to lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges you may face. 

Take your medication as directed

Your health care provider may prescribe medications that help with your physical symptoms and your mental health. “Most people living with PD work closely with their neurologists to manage the movement and non-movement symptoms with a fine balance of medications,” Nisson said. 

Be sure to take your medication on schedule and in the correct doses. Talk to your provider if you have any challenges in taking your medicine or with side effects.

Get regular physical activity

If you have Parkinson’s disease, you might feel like your physical symptoms or apathy make it hard for you to exercise. Your provider can recommend good options. Walking, stationary cycling and swimming may be options to consider. Your community may have a neuro-wellness or PD exercise program available to you.  

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which may improve your energy and motor symptoms and help manage anxiety and depression. Exercising may give you a more positive outlook.

Connect with others in support groups

When you meet with other people who are dealing with Parkinson’s disease, you can share experiences, insights, support and coping strategies. You can develop relationships and feel understood and less isolated. Talk to your health care team about in-person support groups in your area and online options.

Maintain your activities

Try to continue the recreational and social activities you enjoy with your friends and family and community to increase joy, connection and purpose.

Get professional support

A mental health provider with experience in treating people who have Parkinson’s disease can help you process your emotions and improve coping with the emotional impact of living with a progressive condition. 

“Counseling for the person, care partner or family is an effective way to improve coping strategies, manage symptoms and live well with this progressive condition,” Nisson said. “If symptoms of emotional distress are significantly impacting your daily function, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist or clinical social worker to assess possible interventions to improve your quality of life.”

Choose a healthy diet

Good nutrition helps with your physical and mental health. Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Be sure to drink plenty of water because dehydration can make your physical symptoms and your mood worse. 

Try to get restorative sleep

When living with Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms might disrupt your sleep. But sleep is important for your physical and mental health. 

“Many people with Parkinson’s disease have challenges with sleep, such as fatigue and trouble falling and staying asleep. They may also talk, yell or physically act out their dreams,” Nisson said. 

To sleep better, talk to your neurologist and get regular exercise. Sticking to a regular schedule and keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet can also help. 

Manage stress

Stress can impact your physical and emotional health. You can help keep your stress levels under control with stress-reducing activities like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises or hobbies that promote relaxation. 

How caregivers can help

Caregivers often support people with PD when they face physical challenges. By providing understanding, empathy and support, they can help with emotional challenges as well. They can listen, offer reassurance and create a positive environment.

It can help if caregivers:

  • Check in regularly with the person they are caring for to talk about physical and emotional strengths and challenges.
  • Ask the person to share their emotional needs.
  • Connect with mental health professionals who can provide support and help with communication.
  • Attend a care partner support group to ensure their own wellness needs are met.

The bottom line

Many people think of Parkinson’s disease as a physical condition. But the changes in your brain can affect your emotional well-being, too. It’s important to know that PD can cause apathy, anxiety, depression and feelings of loss. Treatment can help improve these symptoms and improve your state of mind.

To connect with an expert who can help you manage the mental health symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, reach out to Banner Health.

Other useful articles

Behavioral Health Senior Health