The Connection Between Parkinson’s & Depression

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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and as a trusted provider of Parkinson’s care in Phoenix, we’d like to use this blog to discuss the connection between PD and depression. The link between depression and Parkinson’s was brought into the public light in summer 2014, with the suicide death of actor Robin Williams, who had recently been diagnosed with the disease, and both depression and Parkinson’s are linked to a lack of serotonin in the brain.

A research study published in the journal Neurology in October 2013 established that depression might be an independent risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. Scientists from Taiwan found that people with hard-to-treat depression have triple the risk of developing Parkinson’s than those with no history of depression. What’s unclear, however, is whether depression is actually a cause Parkinson’s disease.

Both disorders are linked to changes in brain chemistry, primarily a lack of serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are responsible for, among other things, feelings of pleasure, joy and wellbeing. Depression is often one of the earliest symptoms for Parkinson’s disease, sometimes manifesting years before other symptoms. According to the study, the biggest red flag for Parkinson’s disease risk is depression that manifests for the first time in the senior years, followed by long-term depression that has resisted treatment, such as medication and psychotherapy.

Family members and caregivers in Phoenix should keep an eye out for signs of depression in a loved one. These may include feelings of sadness that interfere with everyday life, sleep disturbances, loss of interest in activities and withdrawal from friends and loved ones, change in appetite, and fatigue and listlessness. Fortunately, depression is treatable both with medication and with alternative treatments, such as talk therapy, relaxation techniques like medication, herbal supplements, and lifestyle changes.

If your loved one is showing signs for depression for the first time after the age of 60, talk with his or her doctor about screening for neurodegenerative disorders.

To learn more about senior health or to find Parkinson’s care in your area, reach out to Home Care Assistance. In addition to specialized PD care, we also provide stroke, dementia, and in-home Alzheimer’s care in Phoenix. Call a trusted Care Manager today at (602) 388-1085 to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.