MS Personality?

Believe it or not, there are other MS blogs out there! (Ha, like you don’t know that.) I was over at MultipleSclerosisCentral.com and came across a great post by Merely Me discussing what some people have called an “MS Personality.”

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), which is used by mental health professionals, describes the effects of MS in its discussion of chronic and organic brain syndrome and organic personality syndrome: abnormal mood shifts, anxiety, affective instability, outbursts, aggression, rage, suspiciousness, and paranoia.”

The evidence seems mounting that it is possible for Multiple Sclerosis to alter one’s personality. In looking for research, I found one study which was cited multiple times with reference to this topic. Benedict, Priore, Miller, Munschauer, and Jacobs (The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2001; 13:70-76) attempted to discover if there is any correlation between MS and Personality Disorder. And indeed, they found such a correlation.

So does MS itself cause Personality Disorders, does it bring out latent ones, or is this “personality” caused by the meds we all take? There are so many factors of MS that cause or exacerbate latent problems/mood disorders that I wonder if anyone could accurately find a consistent, expected shift in personality among those of us with MS – and if so, if that should be included as part of the diagnosis of the disease.

Just think about all the factors that affect people with this disease:

1.) New medications
If you start w/ interferons, you deal with flu-like symptoms and depression/anxiety for side effects. If you take Copaxone, you have initial site reactions and it can exacerbate anxiety or depression if you already have it. If you just smoke weed, it doesn’t slow the disease, and it’s a depressant that, when abused, can cause a turn towards sadness or grouchiness. So, right from the get-go, the meds themselves cause emotional turmoil, at least at first.

2.) Meds to mediate your meds.
Feeling depressed, anxious, or obsessive because of this? Time to start taking an anti-depressant. So right there – you’re considered “clinically depressed”

3.) Having MS sucks.
Whether you’re having cognitive problems, bladder problems, fatigue, or all of the above and more, just living life knowing you have MS, dealing with the changes in your life because of MS will make you upset, no matter how wonderful and optimistic a person you are.

4.) Cranky babies need a nap.
MS causes fatigue for almost all of us. If we don’t give ourselves naps or enough uppers (ProVigil, caffiene, whatever), we’re gonna end up tired – and like anyone else, we get cranky, irritable, overly emotional…

5.) I’m just not ME anymore.
Changing our ideas of what we can and cannot do causes us to have to redefine the roles we want to play in our lives. Being forced to admit that you need help is humbling. It will certainly cause a change in peronality if you were always the one taking care of everyone else. And then you have the fact that once you redefine how you want to live your life, you have to deal with all of your family and friends accepting the “new” you… another situation that can cause more stress and make you irritable or emotionally out-of-whack.

6.) Nobody likes a bitter person…
But some of us are just predisposed to feel sorry for ourselves. It takes all kinds — and it certainly takes a significant amount of effort to find the humor and the bright sides of dealing with this crazy disease. Sometimes all it takes is knowing that I can’t get myself somewhere without having a friend give me a ride or finding a taxi for me to become a crabby, bitter person for at least an evening.

7.) The disease itself

  • MS causes fatigue, which stops you from doing the things you love sometimes. That can become depressing.
  • Knowing that an exacerbation can hit at any time and that you have no idea what you can and cannot do on a given day can make you absolutely crazy – especially if you used to be a control freak with your schedule. That can make you a worrywart.
  • Knowing that illness can cause your immune system to flare up and then cause your MS to get worse can make you a bit of a hypochondriac.
  • Lesions in the parts of your brain that have to do with emotion can easily mess with you too.

8.) Sacrifices
Having to give up certain things that you really like (hot tubs/saunas, going to the beach, hiking, etc.) can make you angry. Having to give up vacations, fun with friends, etc. because of the financial obligations or physical problems that occur with this disease would make anyone frustrated and angry.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were a significant number of us out there who are stressed, physically in pain, emotionally humbled, anxious, angry, depressed, etc.

Life’s all about coping – dealing with what’s in front of you the best way that you can… but not everyone knows how to cope, and not everyone copes in the same way.

I wouldn’t call it an “MS Personality” – but rather a psychiatric component to the disease. But hey, that’s just my take.

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