Diagnosed with Parkinson’s
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
In the United States alone, over 200,000 individuals are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year. Parkinson’s Disease affects the individual’s nervous system. Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that negatively affects the dopamine producing neurons, causing a decrease in dopamine. Currently, there is no known cause nor cure for Parkinson’s. However, research shows that genetics or environmental factors could play a part in developing Parkinson’s. Current treatment at best is to slow the progression of the disease and to help individuals and their loved ones adjust to the worsening symptoms as needed.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Some of the common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s are tremors, normally in the hands. Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s may also have stiffness in the limbs, rigidity of muscles, as well as balance and gait issues. Another symptom is slow movement, known as bradykinesia and hypokinesia. There may also be changes to speech and writing for some individuals, as well as an inability to control automatic movements such as swinging arms while walking, blinking and smiling.
Non-motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Living with Parkinson’s can also lead to cognitive issues, such as difficulties with thinking and dementia. Many individuals develop depression, lack of desire, and/or anxiety. Frequently people experience sleep problems and changes in their sex life. Sexual desire is often affected due to medication or the daily stress of living with Parkinson’s. Others, due to an increase in impulsiveness, are at risk for addictive behaviors like gambling, porn addiction etc. Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s can be scary, especially when you are not sure what to expect and how it may affect the rest of your life.
Being Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease & The Stages of Grief
You may initially be in a state of denial that you indeed have Parkinson’s. Thoughts of, “This diagnosis of Parkinson’s can’t be true”, or “The doctor must be wrong'' are normal thoughts that may be replaying over and over in your mind. Wanting a third or fourth opinion to confirm that the symptoms you are experiencing is really Parkinson’s is a common desire. Not believing the doctor and questioning the diagnosis is healthy and is also a signal to the provider that you might be in denial. Denial is a normal stage of grief, and for some, it is a necessary process in order to work through the loss of a life that they once knew. Denial doesn’t mean you will never accept the reality; instead, it is a way for your mind to allow a buffer, giving you time to begin to process this new reality, living with Parkinson’s Disease.
After the denial stage, you may experience feelings of anger about the diagnosis. Angry that you have lost control of the movement of your hands. Angry at yourself for not being able to walk “properly”. Or you may be angry at the world because everyone is staring as your body tremor. Having feelings of anger are acceptable and understandable while you move through the grieving process and try to come to terms with being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Not everyone will experience every stage of grief; however, bargaining is the third stage, and it can look different for each of you. For some, it may be negotiating with God, praying to remove this disease that has taken away your balance and freedom of movement. “I vow to be a better person if you take away this stiffness and pain that keeps me up at night.” For others it may take on the form of ruminating on “what if” statements. For instance, “what if I exercised more, or changed my diet, this disease would have never overtaken me.” Believing that the outcome would have been different if only…fill in the blank. Bargaining is a defense mechanism to help you buy time before some of the heavy emotions such as sadness and hurt takes over.
Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s can lead to feelings of sadness and depression. Parkinson’s Disease affects the neurons that produce dopamine. Dopamine is known as the feel-good chemical in the brain. However, dopamine not only is involved with pleasure and reward; it is also involved in managing sleep, stress response and stabilizing mood. Lack of dopamine can lead to sleep disturbance, lack of motivation, difficulty in concentrating and increase feelings of sadness, symptoms that are synonymous with depression. As a result, those living with Parkinson’s commonly experience depression, due to the decrease in dopamine. Depression may look the same in terms of symptoms, however, those living with Parkinson’s are more likely to experience depression due to neurological issues such as a chemical imbalance that affects mood stabilization. However, those living with Parkinson’s can also experience depression due to the mental and emotional toll of the disease.
Those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s eventually begin to accept the reality of the diagnosis as they try to create a new life or level of normalcy. When you think of acceptance, you may envision a place of peace and happiness. However, acceptance may come in waves, and it is completely normal to accept the diagnosis while also experiencing the other stages of grief simultaneously. Acceptance is about being aware that you are living in a new reality and are ready to take on the ups and downs that may come along with this new life.
Some people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s may find themselves stuck in the fourth stage of grief which is depression. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety may seem to be taking over your life. It’s common for people to feel loss of motivation. Here are some tips to help manage your feelings of depression and anxiety, as well as help to decrease your symptoms related to Parkinson’s.
Tips for Motor and Non-motor Symptoms
1. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce depression and anxiety. Mindfulness allows you to live in the present and appreciate what you are experiencing in the here and now. One way to practice mindfulness is by completing a body scan. This can be done at any time of the day, simply focus your attention on each body part. Starting from your feet, and slowly moving all the way up to the top of your head, noticing any sensations you feel in your body without judging. If you feel any discomfort, visualize the warmth of the sun melting the tension/discomfort away. Take your time to focus on each body part, being aware and kind to yourself as you notice any sensations. This helps to get inside and connect with your body, without trying to control what is going on with your body. You may notice stiffness or tremors, whatever you notice is acceptable for your body. Remind yourself that your body is lovable and valuable with every sensation you feel.
2. Give yourself permission to establish healthy and realistic expectations for yourself. Each day will be different, and what you were able to do yesterday may be different from what you can do today. Allow yourself to enjoy and appreciate the small accomplishment, from being able to sleep through the night, or having enough energy to go for a walk in nature. Whatever it is, be present in the moment to enjoy and fully be aware of what is happening. Being present can help pause the worrying while bringing you back into the awareness of the world around you. Allowing you to enjoy the activity you are doing at the moment. When dealing with a chronic illness, it can be easy to fall into apathy, having a positive attitude and living in the here and now can give you the motivation you need to not give up on yourself.
3. Be your own advocate. Parkinson’s can slowly rob you of your ability to control many aspects of your body. However, you are the expert for your body and can educate others on how to best support you and your needs. We rely heavily on facial expressions to communicate and identify each other’s mood. However, Parkinson’s can make it difficult and sometimes impossible to control facial muscles, which can lead to what is called facial masking. To others you may always look unhappy or depressed, even when you are feeling fine. Explaining facial masking to loved ones can help them understand that they can’t rely on your facial expression, or lack thereof, to determine your mood. Instead work together to come up with other ways to communicate how you are feeling. You can try using color words to communicate how you are feeling. For example, with a partner/spouse, happy=yellow, angry=blue, aroused=green, etc. Have fun coming up with ways to communicate when your face is not able to express what you are feeling.
4. Exercise is one of the best remedies for symptoms related to Parkinson’s. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help with maintaining mobility, flexibility and balance. Exercise can also decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. Aerobic exercise such as cycling, walking, dancing, etc. are all beneficial for treating both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Whatever activity you enjoy that gets the heart rate up is ok, because if you enjoy it, you are more likely to stick with it. Find some time in your day to include at least 30 minutes of your favorite aerobic activity. Exercising can enhance positive mood and overall increase your quality of life. Listen to your body and find what works for you, any small step towards working out is a step in the right direction.
5. Dopamine replacement therapy is used to help those living with Parkinson’s. One side effect of dopamine replacement can be what is known as impulse control disorder (ICD). ICD can present itself in different ways, such as excessive gambling, shopping, or even hyper sexuality. If you are affected by ICD, try to identify the triggers for your urges. Do the urges come when you are alone, feeling restless, feeling sad? Once you can identify your triggers, talk to a therapist, family and friends about these urges that come when you are feeling triggered. Work together to find healthy activities to do when you are feeling those urges. For example, instead of shopping online, play a game with your family. Or replace watching porn with watching a movie or tv show with a friend or family member. Find someone you trust to be your accountability partner; someone you can check in with when the urges are overwhelming. Someone who can remind you of other activities you can do to help satisfy your urges in a healthy way.
6. Maintaining a healthy diet is beneficial for both motor and non-motor symptoms. Eating clean and green is important for a healthy mind and body. Reducing refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, and incorporating lean protein can go a long way in helping improve sleep, cognitive functioning and maintaining an active lifestyle. Nuts, seeds and fruits are great ways to incorporate healthy snacking in place of chips and sweets. Simple nutritional changes can help with mood, as well as Parkinson’s symptoms in the long run. Leaning on your support team is a great way to help with making and sticking to healthy changes, so I encourage you to reach out and ask for help when needed
Working together with your team is very important to maintain an overall good quality of life. Your team can consist of: your doctor, counselor, family neurologist, physical/occupational therapist, family and friends. Having a team is important because you will have different needs that each team member can help you fulfill. If you find yourself or your loved one having a hard time processing emotions and would like some professional help, that is also normal. The Center for Growth has excellent virtual and in person therapists that can help you get back to living.
You can self schedule an in-person or virtual couples therapy session at the Center for Growth by calling (215) 922-5683 x 100.
For your convenience we have 5 physical therapy and counseling offices and provide virtual therapy and counseling services in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Virginia.
360 West Ave, Floor 1, Ocean City, NJ 08226
9044 Mann Drive, Mechanicsville Virginia, 23116
233 S. 6th Street, C-33, Philadelphia PA 19106
2401 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 1a2, Philadelphia PA 19130
· Santa Fe Therapy Office, 2204 B Brothers Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
· Telemedicine: We have therapists who are licensed to work in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia New Mexico and Pennsylvania
Therapy Services Offered in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe:
Individual Counseling and therapy
Couples Counseling and marriage counseling
Teen Therapy and Adolescent Therapy and tweens and child counseling
Family Therapy and multi-generational counseling
Art Therapy and Counseling no art skills needed
ADHD Therapyand ADD, Dyslexia, Autism, Tourettes counseling
Anxiety, Panic, OCD Therapy and worry and fear support
Breaking the cycle of Codependency and being your own person
Overcoming Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain .
Depression Therapy and sadness, gloom, and upset support
- Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) Therapy is a particular style of therapy designed for people with problems affecting their nervous system, how the brain and body send and receive signals.
Grief Therapy and loss, End of A Relationship, rejections, pregnancy and loss and therapy
Mindfulness Based Therapy and spirituality based therapy
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery child of, parent of, spouse of, sibling of a narcissist.
Sex Therapy and sexual function & dysfunction, sex addiction, sexual orientation and gender identity support
Trauma Therapy both emotional and sexual abuse, complex trauma, PTSD counseling
Affairs, Infidelity, Unfaithful, Cheating counseling
Personality disorder treatments Narcissist, Borderline, Histrionic
We decided to have fun and compare our therapeutic answers to computer generated responses . . .
Diagnosed with Parkinson's:
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. The primary symptoms of Parkinson's disease include tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with coordination and balance.
If a person is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, they will likely work with a team of healthcare professionals, including a neurologist, to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Treatment options may include medication to control tremors and other motor symptoms, physical therapy to help with mobility and balance, and speech therapy to help with communication.
In addition, non-pharmacological treatments such as exercise, occupational therapy, deep brain stimulation (DBS) and other therapies are also available to help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life.
It is important to note that Parkinson's disease is a chronic condition, and there is currently no cure. However, with proper management, many people with Parkinson's are able to live full and active lives.
Mental Health Counseling For People Living With Parkinson's Disease:
Mental health counseling can be an important aspect of care for people living with Parkinson's disease. The diagnosis and progression of the disease can lead to emotional and psychological challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and stress. These emotional and psychological symptoms can also worsen the physical symptoms of Parkinson's.
A mental health counselor can help people living with Parkinson's disease to cope with the emotional and psychological impact of the disease, and develop strategies to manage the symptoms. Counseling can also help individuals to build resilience, improve communication and relationships with loved ones, and develop a sense of control over their lives.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used therapies for people living with Parkinson's disease. It can help to change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be affecting mood and quality of life. It can also help to identify specific triggers for symptoms, and develop strategies to avoid or manage them.
Other therapies that may be used include:
- Mindfulness-based therapies: can help to reduce stress and improve mood.
- Group therapy: can provide support, encouragement, and a sense of community for people living with Parkinson's disease.
- Couples therapy and/or family therapy: can help to improve communication and strengthen relationships
It is important for people living with Parkinson's to have access to mental health counseling as part of their care plan. This will help them to manage the emotional and psychological impact of the disease, and improve the overall quality of life.