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Coping with Parkinson's Disease

Living your best life with Parkinson's Disease

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Updated April 03, 2014

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Parkinson's disease changes many parts of a person's life--physical, mental, and social. These changes alone make it difficult to adjust to a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Moreover, the disease itself may change the brain in ways that contribute to depression and anxiety.

That doesn't mean that everyone with Parkinson's disease is doomed to depression. People with Parkinson's disease use a number of different techniques to improve their quality of life.

1) Your life is more than just Parkinson's disease. Focus on the things in your life that define who you are and for which you are grateful. Focus on friends and family. Do what you enjoy. Don't let Parkinson's keep you from getting out and having fun.

2) Discuss your Parkinson's disease with family and friends. It can be tempting to isolate yourself, but doing so may worsen your quality of life. Your friends will want to be with and help you.

3) Consider joining a support group.Support groups aren't for everyone, but sometimes it helps to connect with people who have a real understanding of what you're going through. Support groups are a safe place to share your feelings, and can provide practical information about Parkinson's disease as well.

4) Exercise. Anything that gets your heart pumping can stave off depression and may even have positive affects on the Parkinson's disease itself. If your Parkinson's disease will not permit you to do cardiac exercise, low-impact exercises such as tai chi has been shown to improve relaxation, flexibility and balance.

5) Change your mindset. Techniques such as problem solving and cognitive restructuring lead to a higher quality of life than dwelling on how Parkinson's is changing your lifestyle.

6) Educate yourself about your illness. Few things provoke anxiety like the unknown. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or nurses about your illness, medications, or other therapies.

7) Learn to manage stress. When you have a chronic illness, daily tasks that used to be simple can be very frustrating and stressful. It's important to remember that stress can worsen some Parkinson's disease symptoms, such as tremor.

8) Don't hesitate to ask for help. About 50% of people with Parkinson's disease suffer from depression. Speaking with a mental health care provider can help prevent severe depression or anxiety.

9) Religion or spirituality gives many people a deeper understanding of their disease, and helps them better cope with their symptoms.

10) Become your own advocate. Consider transforming your disease into a motivator for good by volunteering for research, by volunteering to help educate others, or just by writing your congressman to advocate for people with Parkinson's disease.

For more information about support groups, contact the National Parkinson Foundation, or talk to your doctor or a public health nurse. For more tips on coping with Parkinson's, read the following: Coping with Parkinson's Disease, What Not to Do: Negative Coping.

The tips above are useful for adjusting to a diagnosis of almost any chronic illness. Parkinson's disease also has distinct characteristics and symptoms that demand unique solutions. Read more about managing these symptoms here: Living With Parkinson's Disease Symptoms

Source:

Ropper AH, Samuels MA. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9th ed: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2009.

McCabe MP, O'Connor EJ. "Why are some people with neurological illness more resilient than others?" Psychol Health Med. 2011 May 17:1-18.

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