What is the Connection Between Parkinson's and Depression?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2018
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People who are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease may also be diagnosed with depression. A feeling of sadness or depression is to be expected when a person is diagnosed with a condition for which there is no cure. There may be more to the connection between Parkinson's and depression, however, than a simple emotional reaction. Often, depression is a symptom of Parkinson's.

The exact cause of Parkinson's disease remains unknown. Some people may be genetically predisposed to the disorder while others may develop the disease as a result of exposure to toxins. When a person has Parkinson's, the cells that produce dopamine in the brain die. The lack of dopamine leads to difficulty moving, stiffness in the muscles, and the tremors commonly associated with the disease. A link between Parkinson's and depression exists because the disorder also lowers the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in a person's brain. Low levels of both chemicals are associated with depression.

A person suffering from both Parkinson's and depression may exhibit certain symptoms. He may not be able to sleep or may refuse to get out of bed. Angry outbursts when the situation does not warrant them are another symptom. A person with Parkinson's and depression may seem less interested in the events of daily life or may become morbid and focus only on the bad parts of life. Depression is usually indicated if a person displays at least two of these symptoms for at least two weeks.


Anti-depressant medications may be able to treat Parkinson's and depression. A person suffering from both conditions may also benefit from attending therapy sessions in order to learn how to cope with the diseases. Psychologists can help a person adjust negative behavior and help eliminate negative thinking. In addition to medication and therapy, a person with Parkinson's and depression can try to manage his symptoms by sticking to a regular schedule, eating healthy meals and exercising regularly.

In some cases, a person may start suffering from depression before he is diagnosed with Parkinson's. A study in 2009 showed that a large number of patients diagnosed with depression were likely to develop symptoms of Parkinson's within a two year period. It is important that anyone diagnosed with depression see his doctor immediately if he starts to show symptoms of early Parkinson's, such as a tremor in the hand or a loss of involuntary movements such as blinking.



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