Psychological support in Multiple Sclerosis
Mental health problems occur more often in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) than the general population. Furthermore, they occur more often in people with MS than any other neurological or chronic condition. It is not known whether this is a symptom of MS, or whether it happens as a result of the symptoms common to people with MS have that can impact so profoundly on daily life, such as fatigue, pain and mobility difficulties alongside the unpredictable nature of the condition. Either way, it is not unusual for people with MS to suffer from some sort of mental health problem, more commonly depression and anxiety related conditions.
It is for this reason that supporting people with MS in relation to their mental health is of utmost importance to lessen the impact of their MS and improve their functioning physically, psychologically and socially. A number of different psychological interventions have been tried and tested, targeting a variety of outcomes, and are recognised by NICE as something that should form a part of routine care for people with MS.
Perceived stress, certain coping strategies and uncertainty have been consistently related to poorer psychological well-being in people with MS. Other factors related to wellbeing in MS include social support, thinking errors regarding illness and symptoms and health behaviours as well as positive factors such as finding strengths and benefits in times of adversity.
All of these factors are amenable to change through intervention. Psychological interventions for people with MS have been designed using a variety of approaches (changing or accepting thoughts or relationships with thoughts, emotions or behaviour), targeting different symptoms and outcomes (fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression) and have been delivered in a number of different ways (both in groups and individually and remotely and face to face), by different facilitators (peers, nurses, psychologists and therapists) for varying durations (from a single session, to ongoing over the course of a year) for people at different stages of their diagnosis. Results have been promising for varying combinations of these factors although no one approach has been identified as the most effective. In fact, it is concluded that most likely different types of intervention are more effective for different types of people and due to the diversity in the MS population, such interventions should be individualised and delivered through a means of person centred treatment that is based on individual needs.
This is what the psychological literature says, but we want to know what people with MS say. Complete this online survey here by clicking the ‘start’ button at the bottom of the page. https://research.reading.ac.uk/neurodegenerative-diseases/multiple-sclerosis/
Or you can go directly to the survey here: https://forms.gle/5YTssp4pDVFciYEe9
Hannah Morris-Bankole and Dr Aileen Ho
University of Reading
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