Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the progressive loss of motor nerves, which are the nerve cells that control muscle movement. As the disease progresses, patients develop disabilities that worsen over time. Within a few years of diagnosis, patients may lose the ability to perform everyday tasks such as walking or dressing. Many ALS patients also experience anxiety and depression.

What are anxiety and depression?

Anxiety is defined as persistent fear and worry, which is out of proportion to the situation causing them and lasting longer than six months.

Depression is a mental disorder, which can range in severity from mild to severe. Patients may experience depression differently and their friends and family often notice symptoms before they do so themselves. Some patients may feel sad, have a depressed mood, or lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They also may experience changes in appetite, have trouble sleeping (or sleep too much), lack of energy, and have thoughts of death or suicide.

Anxiety and depression in ALS

As with any serious illness, ALS  a has huge impact on a person’s life as well as the lives of their family members and caregivers.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients diagnosed with ALS, being most common immediately following a diagnosis. However, episodes of depression in ALS are generally brief and respond well to treatment.

Treatment for anxiety and depression

Treatment  is built on a combination of approaches, which include therapeutic counseling, and antidepressant medication. There are many types of antidepressant medications available and patients may have to try more than one in order to find the one that treats their depression effectively.

For the short-term treatment of anxiety, patients might be prescribed benzodiazepines in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves learning different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-causing situations.

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ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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Emily holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Iowa and is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated with a Masters in Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and holds a Bachelors in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Central Arkansas. Emily is passionate about science communication, and, in her free time, writes and illustrates children’s stories.
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