Coping with ALS

Feeling sad or scared after an ALS diagnosis is completely natural. Some people have an easier time dealing with these emotions than others. 

For some people with ALS (and loved ones or caregivers), the feelings of anxiety or sadness become an ongoing problem that can be just as severe as the physical symptoms of ALS. They may suffer from clinical depression, which is a separate disease that can be treated. 

Signs of Depression 

Potential symptoms of depression include: 

  • Prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, anxiety, or guilt. 

  • Irritability or angry outbursts over small matters. 

  • Changes in sleeping patterns, including insomnia or sleeping too much. 

  • Changes in appetite. 

  • Fatigue. 

For ALS patients, these symptoms are not as clear-cut. For example, fatigue could be a symptom of depression or a result of muscle weakening caused by ALS. Changes in appetite could be caused by increased difficulty in chewing and swallowing food or by a decrease in physical activity resulting in less calories being burned. Because of this, it’s important not to self-diagnose; a doctor or psychiatrist can determine whether you are suffering from clinical depression and prescribe treatment if needed. 

Dealing with Depression 

Whether you are suffering from clinical depression or just feeling depressed because of ALS, we are here to help. 

ALS Association chapters offer support groups throughout the country, where you can meet with other people with ALS, caregivers, or family members. To find the support group nearest you, click here. 

For many people living with ALS, realizing that they still have a purpose and a contribution to make to the world helps them feel less depressed. Whether it’s investing in relationships, mentoring, expressing your creativity, or whatever you feel inspired to do, such activities can help you lead a fulfilling life. 

The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be depressed. After the initial shock and adjustment period of an ALS diagnosis, most people living with ALS do not suffer from depression. For those who do, treatment is available. If you have any questions or need help, please contact us.