Parkinson’s patients often experience stress when their symptoms are not undercontrolled. If not treated properly, stress can further deteriorate the disease condition.
Learn here how to deal with this problem of the disease more effectively.
Stress is a condition of physical and mental strain that arise when we are challenged or overwhelmed.
Stress can be acute or chronic. Acute stress appears suddenly and lasts for a short period of time. It can be beneficial as it triggers the hormonal system to prepare the body to encounter danger, a situation known as “fight and flight”.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, caused by unpleasant life events in childhood or later in life. These events caused frequent irritation or frustration that reach to the level where the body becomes unable to cope with it.
If left untreated, chronic stress can lead to many serious conditions such as depression, diabetes, heart diseases, and autoimmune diseases (1).
Stress and Parkinson’s disease – what is the link?
Emotional or extreme psychological stress has been suggested to play a role in Parkinson’s disease development. Research suggests that those who had gone through stressful life events are at high risk of developing Parkinson’s disease later in life (2, 3).
In fact, one study reported that stress is directly invloved in the development of Parkinson’s. In this study, which was published in the journal of Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, showed that a 38-years old woman experienced sudden strong tremor in her left arm 1 week after knowing that her husband had an affair with another woman. Before the incident, the woman was in a healthy condition and had no history of brain diseases. Her symptoms were treated after taking Parkinson’s disease medications. After clinical examination, she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease.
But this is a single case study that was reported in 2013 and since then there has not been any other report published that show such a conclusive findings.
Therefore, researchers think stress could be a modified risk factor but not necessarily the cause of Parkinson’s disease.
How does stress develop Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease occurs as a result of the severe loss of certain cells in the brain that produce dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that controls body movements.
Stress may contribute to the loss of dopamine-producing cells. Research studies in animals suggest that chronic stress preferentially exert neurotic effects on brain cells and affect their ability to produce dopamine (5).
While the exact mechanism of how it could cause damage, researchers think that it acts by developing oxidative stress condition that harm DNA, protein, and lipid of brain cells and ultimately caused their death (6).
The other possible way through which chronic stress causes damage to dopamine-producing cells in the brain is by decreasing the levels of T-lymphocytes, which are the special type of cells present in our blood and are involved in immunity. A study on mice brain has shown that dysfunction of T-lymphocytes results in the loss of dopamine-producing cells and develop Parkinson’s disease-like changes (7). Another study found a profound reduction in T-lymphocytes levels in the blood of Parkinson’s disease patients (8).
How to cope with stress in Parkinson’s disease?
Here are the 6 ways that help you to deal with stress in Parkinson’s disease.
1. Identify the cause of stress
This’s the first step in dealing with stress. There could be many things that trigger stress in Parkinson’s disease. It could be related to your symptoms like specific movements, difficulty in talking, eating, and falling sleep or it could be due to other problems. If you can recognize them, you can learn to address them.
2. Speak with your doctor
Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about the things that cause you stress. Your doctor will help you how to deal with it and probably referred you to a psychiatrist if needed.
3. Avoid negative thoughts and criticism
Thinking about the disease and worrying about the future will make your condition worse. Instead, adapt yourself with the disease and focus on things that bring positive feelings. It can be tricky, but certainly not impossible.
Look at life at a different angle and be grateful for whatever you have, even for small things. It will have a great impact on your positivity and happiness.
4. Make a plan beforehand
Planning ahead is important for everyone, but it is even more important for people with Parkinson’s disease. It avoids the feel of urgency and helps with stress. For example, arranging a family or friends gathering can be less stressful if you make a list of guests and make a plan for how to serve and entertain them. Similarly, it is helpful to schedule your meeting with friends and family members or with your doctor.
5. Do regular exercise
People with Parkinson’s disease are strongly advised to do regular exercise. It will not only help to improve symptoms but also reduce the signs of depression and fatigue. Aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, running, cycling and swimming are beneficial. Exercises that involve controlled breathing, like yoga, can also be effective in controlling stress.
6. Try to be social
People with Parkinson’s disease are encouraged to participate and arrange gatherings with friends and family. Social activities and enjoying the company of others give the patients a strong sense of control over their symptoms and improve the overall quality of life.
Disclaimer: The information shared here should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions presented here are not intended to treat any health conditions. For your specific medical problem, consult with your health care provider.