Fighting anxiety in Parkinson’s Patients
One of the most challenging aspects in Parkinson’s disease is the battle with anxiety. You will be faced with bouts of stress, depression, a fear of the unknown especially during the night when you want to relax and sleep.
The anxiety Parkinsons.org says is not caused by the mere news after diagnosis that you have a neuro-degenerative disease. No, anxiety is part of Parkinson’s symptoms. As mentioned above, it works just when you are about to relax to bed. At that very moment, anxiety grips you and will not leave you for a long time which leaves you wondering what is wrong. It is not that there is anything to be anxious about. No, it is just there, tormenting you and never letting go. The anxiety, neurologists explain is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain when dopamine levels have gone down.
Types of anxiety you are likely to battle with
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by butterflies in the stomach that would affect any normal person when they are about to do a new thing; say do a public speech for the first time, go out on a date. GAD comes out as butterflies in the stomach, sweaty arms, nausea, trouble breathing, increased heart beat as well as increased hand tremors.
Parkinson’s patients are usually self-conscious of their symptoms for example tremors, bradykinesia, imbalance while walking or the slur in speech. They will therefore feel embarrassed of displaying such symptoms in public and would rather cocoon themselves in solitude where nobody is going to see them or know what they are suffering from.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety where you are obsessed by doing things repetitively say for example washing hands since they feel that they have germs or dirt, checking to see that their rooms are clean by wiping and dusting everything. If the person does not do such activities, they are highly likely to feel anxious as though they are missing out on some major aspects in their lives.
Parkinson’s patients will be hit by anxiety attacks when their levodopa medications are yet to take effect.
How to identify anxiety in a Parkinson’s patient
Anxiety usually precludes depression and so it is important that as a caregiver you identify anxiety in a patient before it goes ahead and becomes full-blown depression. So how do you identify the anxiety:
- Watch out lest the patient seems to be put off by things that they enjoyed. It could be a sign that they are becoming anxious which will lead to depression
- Are they avoiding other people or being in places where they are likely to meet friends and family members.
- Are they crazily obsessed by small things that never bothered them before?
- Are they seeming afraid of new environments or doing new things
Effects of the anxiety
Could slowly lead to depression and stress
Lack of sleep. When anxiety attacks hit at night, the patient has to battle with insomnia
Moodiness. The patient is likely to get moody and avoid things that they enjoyed just some moments ago.
Social aloofness: Anxiety makes the patient not want to talk or engage with anyone.
How to beat the anxiety
We have said that anxiety if not treated or looked into could lead to depression. And anxiety is not a bad thing. But depression is because it could lead to suicidal thoughts, lowered self-esteem as well as seeing life as meaningless.
There are certain medication such as levodopa, sinemet and carbidopa that Parkinson’s patients have been using to fight the anxiety as well as other symptoms of the disease. The medication does work but it will take time before it kicks in. When it is yet to kick in, we say that you are on an off state and when it does finally start working, you are on an on state.
Cannabidiol or what is being popularly called cbd oil has also been explored and found to help control anxiety in Parkinson’s patients. Unlike marijuana which usually contains THC, CBD oil does not have any traces of THC as it has been extracted from the substance. Since it does not have this THC, you will not feel any high when you use it.
Weighted or what I like to call anxiety blankets have been found to be very effective in fighting anxiety in Parkinson’s disease patients. What the anxiety blankets do is that they make the patient feel as though someone is hugging them deeply as explained in https://hosiped.com/weighted-blanket-anxiety-insomnia/.
Other than weighted blankets, you could also get some compression vests for autistic adults to be worn by the patient. Compression vests have for long been worn by autistic adults and toddlers and it has been found that they help the patient relax due to the pressure. When patients with sensory processing disorder were asked, they said that the weighted compression vests make them feel grounded. It is as though someone is hugging them showing them love and care.