When a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), it’s normal to be anxious about the diagnosis and what the future may bring. However, research indicates that the anxiety isn’t just a reaction to the diagnosis, but it may actually be a part of the disease. In fact, it might be one of the first symptoms of PD to appear, even before the person begins to have movement-related symptoms. Understanding the connection between anxiety and PD is an important facet of being a family caregiver or senior care provider for a person with PD.
Anxiety Related to Brain Changes.
PD changes brain chemistry and pathways in the brain. PD affects dopamine production, which is the neurotransmitter that regulates body movements. The same parts of the brain that are responsible for producing dopamine are also responsible for the production of serotonin. Serotonin controls mood as well as sleep and appetite. Anxiety is a symptom of PD, but it is not considered part of the progression of the disease. It can begin before motor symptoms develop or at any other time during the course of the disease.
Recognizing Anxiety in a PD Patient.
Up to 45 percent of people with PD will experience anxiety at some time. Senior care providers and caregivers need to be watchful for signs of anxiety in people with PD because the anxiety can be even more disabling than the disease itself. Some things to watch for are:
- Panic Attacks. A panic attack is an incident of feeling strong fear. A person having a panic attack may experience a rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
- Constant Worry. A person with anxiety may feel worried and overwhelmed all the time.
- Phobias. A phobia is a fear of a certain thing or situation, like fearing being embarrassed in public.
- Increased Movement Symptoms. A PD patient with anxiety can experience a worsening of movement-related symptoms. When a PD patient is anxious, a tremor may return or get worse even when medications are otherwise working.
- Health Perception. A person with anxiety might think their health is worse than it really is, which can impact their quality of life.
Living with Anxiety.
Family caregivers and senior care providers should remain in contact with one another to ensure they are sharing information about the senior’s PD symptoms, including anxiety. Keeping a notebook for recording symptoms can help keep everyone on the same page. A notebook can also be useful for recognizing what triggers anxiety so that those triggers can be avoided. If signs of anxiety persist or worsen, inform the patient’s doctor so that they can receive the appropriate treatment. It may also be beneficial to find a support group for people with PD where the senior can share their feelings openly with others who understand and may be able to offer tips for coping with anxiety.
The staff at Home Care Matters is available to talk with you and your family about all of your needs. Home Care Matters is a home care agency providing quality and affordable senior care in Flowery Branch, GA and the surrounding areas. Call (678) 828-2195 for more information.