Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifetime health condition that causes damaging effects on an individual’s brain and spinal cord. One could develop serious disability, though it could be mild in some cases. The condition can lead to a number of symptoms like loss of sensation, problem with leg and arm movement as well as vision impairment.
Adding to the physical problems, there is an increased risk of depression developing in people with MS, as they often feel stigmatized. Substantiating this fact, an ongoing research study found that people with MS who feel stigmatized, are more likely to face depression. However, the negative effects of stigma can be significantly reduced if a person has a strong support network in the form of friends and family, as well as a sense of autonomy.
Researchers conclude stigma as a cause of depression
To analyze this aspect as part of an ongoing research project, data was collected from 5,369 participants enrolled in the semi-annual survey conducted by the North American Research Committee on multiple sclerosis (NARCOMS). Sponsored by the Consortium of multiple sclerosis Centers, NARCOMS is an archive of the survey conducted twice a year on individuals living with MS.
The researchers concluded that people with MS and a higher level of stigma were more likely to report symptoms of depression, with the risk of developing clinical depression. The results were reached on the basis of longitudinal methodology, a process that gathers data from the same people over a period of time.
Margaret Cadden, a doctoral student in psychology at Penn State and lead author of the study, said that there was a likelihood of about 50 percent of people with MS to go through depression during their lifetime, as compared to about 17 percent of the public. However, the causes of these high rates of depression in MS were not well understood. “Our study helps identify stigma as an important social contributor,” she added.
Cadden also said that individuals dealing with a chronic illness may feel isolated and separated. People living with MS are aware that their disease cannot be cured and it leads to the development of a number of symptoms like visual problems, fatigue, pain, speech problems and cognitive issues, thereby contributing to their stigmatization.
Jonathan Cook, assistant professor of psychology, Penn State, and the study’s senior author, suggested during the study that having a strong social network can help in building a mental buffer, which can help in alleviating the negative effects of the stigma.
Stigma may intensify depression in individuals with other medical conditions
The researchers found that, to a certain degree, stigma played a role in causing depression among individuals dealing with conditions that had little to do with personal responsibility. “Personal responsibility is thought to intensify stigma. Research on stigma from chronic illness has often focused on conditions like HIV and lung cancer, where stigma can be based in part on people’s sense that the illness might have been prevented. So, there is a perspective where you might wonder how much stigma would be a problem for people living with MS. And the reality we’re finding is that it is an issue, and that it worsens depression,” said Cook.
Fighting against stigma may help
Eradicating the stigma, attached with mental health conditions, has become the need of the hour. Therefore, it is important for one to put in their best efforts, fight against any stigma and make treatment available for all. Wiping out stigma is essential to ensure that the right kind of help is provided at the right time.
In case there’s someone you know who is dealing with depression and looking to connect with one of the best depression treatment centers in Florida, the Florida Depression Helpline may be of help. Call at our 24/7 depression helpline number 866-267-5177 or chat online with one of our representatives to connect with the best depression rehab near you.