Managing anxiety in MS: What works?

Day-to-day living with a chronic, unpredictable condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) can understandably take a psychological toll. People with MS have an increased risk of anxiety for many reasons.

You may not know how you'll feel from morning to afternoon or one day to the next. Often, you never know when or if a flare-up will occur or how severely you may be affected.

Other factors in MS also can affect you emotionally, such as damage to your brain's nerve cells or side effects from medications, such as corticosteroids.

The good news is that, unlike some other aspects of MS, anxiety is treatable. And with proper treatment, you can significantly improve your quality of life.

If you feel your anxiety is something above and beyond the regular worries of everyday life, take steps to address it.

  • Reach out. Communication is key in treating emotional problems in MS. Tell your family, friends and doctor about your feelings. Informing your doctor will help you be diagnosed and receive treatment, if necessary. Family and friends are better able to help you if they know what you're going through.
  • Seek treatment. Professional counseling and support groups can be very helpful in dealing with the anxiety and distress that may accompany MS. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society or your doctor can put you in touch with helpful resources.
  • Find ways to relax. Many people find that relaxation or mind-body exercises — such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or tai chi — can significantly reduce anxiety and bring on feelings of calm.