I recently went to the British Geriatrics Society on a ‘research visit’ to hear the findings of a study that investigated mood states in people with Parkinson’s. Depression, often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, affects many people with Parkinson’s – evidence suggests that as many as 40% experience mood problems at some time during the course of the condition. A team from Kings College London led by Professor Richard Brown and funded by Parkinson’s UK carried out a four year study designed to answer, among other questions, whether depression in people with Parkinson’s is different from depression in people without the condition, what groups might be most at risk and how mood problems might be treated.
The research was carried out by interviewing people with Parkinson’s in their homes on an annual basis over four years (so, four interviews for those who stayed the course). There were 513 participants in year one and 329 in year 4. Four groups were identified: those who did not experience mood problems (60%), those who suffered from anxiety (22%), depression (9%) and both anxiety and depression (9%). Women and people with dependants were more likely to suffer from depression/anxiety as were those who had had Parkinson’s for longer and were on higher doses of medication. Other interesting conclusions can also be drawn from the data.
The question is the extent to which depression is related to the person or his/her circumstances. To answer this the researchers are trying to tease out the differences between different sub-groups defined by factors associated with their circumstances or their Parkinson’s (for example people with and without a tremor, those with postural problems etc). What is encouraging is that this type of analysis does not lump all Parkinson’s sufferers together but looks at them as individuals who can be combined into different groups.
What comes out of the research is a greater understanding of an issue that is vitally important to those who are affected. This should lead to greater awareness among doctors. Possible treatments are also being investigated (both drug and therapy based). A technique called ‘computerised cognitive therapy’ is being looked at as a possible treatment. As the name suggests this type of therapy does not require a therapist but can be carried out by the patient at home.
An area that I think needs to be addressed is the depression/anxiety that may be a side effect of Parkinson’s medication. This was not specifically addressed as part of this study.
That's very interesting . I think Mood plays a big part in Parkinsons .
Everyone is at different stages and ages so difficult to compare and treat.
The Gps and consultants must find it difficult ,no two people are the same .
Will be good to look at as a whole and individually . That is if I am understanding you ..
In my experience Parkinson's with depression is a more frightening
and despairing depression than Parkinson's on its own.
I was also on this project visit and it was fascinating. Unfortunately my note taking skills deserted me some years ago, and there were no handouts for the presentations. (Perhaps the Research Team could tactfully remind project leaders that one common symptom is difficulty in writing and that summaries or copies of presentation slides are invaluable) so what follows is from memory.
I was particularly struck by the finding that people in general found their non-motor symptoms more depressing than the motor symptoms. The problem seems to be that Parkinson’s is classified as a movement disorder and therefore motor symptoms are the preferred targets of drugs and treatments. The non-motor symptoms arising from Parkinson’s and as side effects of the medication end up being more trouble for most people than the motor symptoms for which they are being treated. This has certainly been what I have felt at times over the decade since I was diagnosed.
The second illuminating point was the proportion of people who have hallucinations of various kinds. Since I have them in a mild and non threatening form, I felt comforted. It seems, too, that hallucinations are more common in the earlier stages than one would think. I can now sit back and enjoy them
Thanks to the survey’s size and duration there is now a massive bank of data from some 300 – 400 people which should be a goldmine for researchers. But I felt that they had missed out on one important question: what we do for ourselves to keep up a good quality of life and avoid depression.
Many of us have searched out, and found or even organised activities from painting to poetry, dance groups and choirs. I hope someone can mine the mountain of interviews and tell us what strategies have worked to help us improve the quality of our lives.
Thanks for your feedback Dewey.
Researchers are usually happy to share their slides after the visits, removing any data that's not ready for publication - please feel free to contact Stacey Storey who can help you with this. You can write to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We've also included a new line in the email we send researchers confirming visits, reminding them that people attending project visits might appreciate notes where possible.
Research Support Network Manager
I recently attended the Kings College project on how mood is affected in people with Parkinsons.
Professor Richard Brown presented the meeting along with dedicated experts to answer audiences questions about work that has been achieved.
Depression that appears to trigger off anxiety accounts for about 40% of Parkinsons
The project has tried to find if the depression found with Parkinsons sufferers is different from those who do not suffer. It was suggested that anti-depressants are not the major answer. A more constructive and professional approach was needed. The Kings College team are monitoring 500 people with Parkinsons and collecting data to see those most at risk.
I would like to add to the body of data already compiled.
I have PD and I am totally cheesed off.
Brilliant Eck - not that you are cheesed off , but your succinct conribution to this research
I think you'll find that in these days of political Euro-correctness you have "Parkinson's", and that you are "Fromaged" off.
If you are interested to find out more about "Anxiety and depression in Parkinson's" there is an online seminar on this topic on Tuesday March 6th at 6.00pm.http://www.pdf.org/parkinson_briefing_anxiety
There is a 'listen again' facility if you miss it.