The emotional and cognitive effects of MS are often its greatest challenges

The emotional and cognitive effects of MS are often its greatest challenges
Some of the most common but hidden symptoms of MS are the changes people may experience related to cognition and their emotions. These changes can affect the way people feel about themselves and alter their cognitive functions. For many, the emotional and cognitive effects of the disease represent its greatest challenges.

Emotional changes

There are a number of emotional responses that appear to be common as people learn to deal with having MS. Uncertainty, stress and anxiety are the most common, not just during diagnosis, but throughout the course of the disease.
A person with MS may grieve for their life before MS and their self-image may take a while to adjust to having MS. Other emotional changes that may occur in MS include clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and mood swings. All of these are more common among people with MS than in the general population. Depression and bipolar disorder require professional attention and the use of effective treatments.
Emotional lability appears to be more common, and possibly more severe, in people with MS. This may include frequent mood changes, for example from happy to sad to angry.
It is believed that the causes are the extra stress brought on by MS as well as neurological changes.
Uncontrollable laughing and crying is a disorder affecting a small proportion of people with MS, and is thought to be caused by MS-related changes in the brain.

Low self-esteem

Having MS can affect self-esteem. There may be times when it’s difficult to do everything a person is used to doing, or they may have to do things differently. Focusing too much on the negative aspects can feel overwhelming. This one minute infographic gives some confidence boosters and tips for managing low self-esteem and MS. Thanks to the UK MS Society for providing the text for this infographic.

MS organisations around the world have translated the infographic into a range of languages.
Low self-esteem and MS (English)Baja autoestima y EM (Spanish)Autoestima e Esclerose Multipla (Portuguese)Psychologiczne aspekty SM – samoocena (Polish)MS en een laag zelfbeeld (Dutch)Sclérose en plaques et estime de soi (French)טרשת נפוצה והערכה עצמית נמוכה (Hebrew)
If you’re interested in translating it into an additional language, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cognitive changes

Cognition refers to the “higher” brain functions such as memory and reasoning. About half of all people with MS will not experience any cognitive changes, but for others, the most commonly affected aspects of cognition are:
MemoryAttention and concentrationWord-findingSpeed of information processingAbstract reasoning and problem solvingVisual spatial abilitiesExecutive functions
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Original author: Stuart
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Friday, 03 April 2020

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