Parkinson’s Disease and Depression – What’s the Link?

Depression is common in Parkinson’s patients. Like other symptoms, it also has a negative impact on patient’s quality of life. 
Learn here why depression appears in Parkinson’s disease and how to deal with it?

depression in Parkinson's

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurological disorder that affected approximately 1-2% of the world population over the age of 65. The typical motor symptoms of the disease include tremor, rigidity, slowness of movement, and balance problems. These symptoms develop when there is a massive loss of certain brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical responsible for controlled body movement.

Besides, motor symptoms, the disease also comes with some non-motor features. Among these, depression is the most common one. In depression, a patient has a low mood and shows no lack of interest in pleasurable activities.

Although undermined for many years, depression is now being considered as one of the key symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. It occurs in 40-50% of patients.

Like other typical symptoms, depression can also bother a patient’s daily life, and sometime it could be more problematic than the motor signs of the disease.

Why does it appear in Parkinson’s disease?

Depression seems to be more common in Parkinson’s patients than in the general population. While it remains unknown why it appears in Parkinson’s disease, researchers think there is a link between the two.

Results from animal studies suggest that besides dopamine, the brain in Parkinson’s disease faces serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is a well-known neurotransmitter and its level is known to be lower in depression. Researchers also observed lesions in parts of the brain that are linked to both Parkinson’s disease and depression.

Psychological factors may also play a role in the development of depression in Parkinson’s disease. A patient can develop it in response to fear about the disease and its impact on personal, social, and family life. A major life event in a patient with Parkinson’s can also contribute to the development of depression.

What type of depression develop in Parkinson’s disease?

Research shows that depression can develop at any stage in the course of Parkinson’s disease and its severity varies from patient to patient. Some patients develop a major form of depression, others have a milder form. In some cases, a patient may develop a chronic form of depression, also called dysthymia.

A study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences has reported that 22.5% of Parkinson’s patients develop dysthymia. While 36.6% of the patients develop minor depression, and 24.8% experience the major form of depression.

The severity of depression also depends on the phase of Parkinson’s disease. Most often, a patient with depressive symptoms also experiences anxiety, cognitive impairment, and psychosis.

How to deal with it?

Like other typical symptoms, depression also needs proper attention, not only from a patient but also from family members and a healthcare provider. This is because its impact could extend far beyond mood changes. It causes faster physical and cognitive deterioration, poor quality of life, and increased caregiver distress.

Medication is the most effective way of dealing with depression. Antidepressant drugs (like citalopram, sertraline, paroxetine, fluoxetine, venlafaxine, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and desipramine) are commonly prescribed for depression. The starting dose of these drugs should be low and should be used in caution as they may exacerbate the disease condition and aggravate anxiety in a patient.

Dopamine agonists, Parkinson’s-specific drugs, have antidepressant effects and so could improve the depressive symptoms without the need of using antidepressants.

Besides medication, changes in daily life can also help to improve depressive symptoms.

These include:

  • Doing regular exercise
  • Participating in healthy emotional activities
  • Going for a walk with friends or family member
  • Getting enough sleep

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.

Leave a Comment