Anxiety is a recognized comorbidity of Parkinson’s disease. This means that a person with Parkinson’s has a higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety compared with the regular population.
Anxiety affects an estimated
The two conditions can negatively impact each other. Parkinson’s can increase a person’s stress and worry, while anxiety can worsen a person’s disease outlook and affect different areas of their overall health.
This article reviews how anxiety affects people with Parkinson’s, types of anxiety linked to Parkinson’s, and more.
Researchers found anxiety can impact the following areas:
- treatment compliance
- caregiver burden
- increased risk of falls
A person may find they experience one or more of the symptoms associated with anxiety. More severe symptoms may lead to decreases in quality of life.
Anxiety and Parkinson’s can influence each other. Anxiety can worsen Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s can cause anxiety due to changes in brain chemistry. New or worsening symptoms can also trigger anxiety attacks.
Anxiety disorder types linked to Parkinson’s
Anxiety is a general term to describe excessive nervousness or worry. There are several different types of anxiety that a person with Parkinson’s may develop.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, anxiety disorders linked to Parkinson’s disease include:
- generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- social anxiety disorder
- panic attacks
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Finally, the researchers indicated a high prevalence of depression and anxiety co-occurring in people with Parkinson’s.
Healthcare professionals do not think anxiety is tied to Parkinson’s disease progression. This means that a person may develop anxiety before or after their initial diagnosis.
Similarly, depression may occur before the development of other symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Experts believe that changes in brain chemistry due to Parkinson’s may also cause anxiety symptoms in people with the disease.
But there is no current evidence to suggest developing anxiety or depression means a person will develop Parkinson’s, or vice versa.
Several factors can cause people with Parkinson’s to experience anxiety. The demands of living with Parkinson’s can be a source of worry and fear for people with the disease.
People may worry about what the future holds, and how they can cope independently during “off periods” (a time of day when medication stops working). People may also avoid social occasions out of fear of embarrassment.
Additionally, experts believe biological factors may also trigger anxiety. People with Parkinson’s have disrupted levels of a neurotransmitter called Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). Experts also link anxiety and depression to lower levels of GABA.
Changing brain activity may also affect anxiety levels. During “off periods,” people with Parkinson’s may experience anxiety attacks.
A person with anxiety may be able to manage their anxiety through successful treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
A person can also take steps to actively manage anxiety, which we explore below in further detail.
Diet and physical activity
Exercise and diet play important roles in a person’s overall health. A healthy diet can give people the nutrients their body needs to function well and help with weight management. Exercise and physical activity can help to lower symptoms associated with anxiety and improve mood overall.
Before making any drastic changes to diet or exercise, a person should discuss their health with a healthcare professional.
Certain medications may help with anxiety. Healthcare professionals often prescribe antidepressants — such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — as the first-line treatment for anxiety. These include medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft).
Both medications can lead to improved symptoms and both have associated side effects that a person should discuss with a healthcare professional prior to taking them.
Complementary therapies can help promote the effectiveness of other treatment options. Some common types of therapy that may help with anxiety include:
Socialization can include getting together with friends and family or joining support groups. Discussing how a person with Parkinson’s feels with a friend, family member, or group may help them to cope better with anxiety.
A person should talk with a healthcare professional if they develop symptoms that could indicate Parkinson’s disease or anxiety. They may be able to either diagnose the condition or recommend a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
Healthcare professionals can also help to provide support and treatment for each condition.
People should also consider seeing a healthcare professional if their symptoms begin to interfere with their daily life. They may be able to make adjustments to treatments that may help.
Several organizations offer support for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families and carers.
A therapist or healthcare professional may be able to provide information on local support groups for people living with Parkinson’s.
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers a Helpline for people with Parkinson’s at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636). The hotline can provide up-to-date information on the condition and help with emotional support.
A person can also check out their online resources, which include access to an online community of people with Parkinson’s disease for additional help and support.
The following sections answer commonly asked questions about anxiety and Parkinson’s.
Is anxiety common in Parkinson’s disease?
Anxiety affects around
Does anxiety make Parkinson’s worse?
Anxiety and Parkinson’s share a negative connection where one condition getting worse can cause the other one to also get worse. For example, if a person experiences worsening physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, they may find their anxiety worsens.
Parkinson’s and anxiety often occur together. When they do occur together, a person may notice worsening symptoms of each condition.
Several types of anxiety may occur alongside Parkinson’s, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and sporadic anxiety that occurs unpredictably.
People can take several steps to manage their anxiety, including medications, therapies, or complementary therapies and lifestyle changes. A person should discuss treatments with a healthcare professional or therapist if their condition worsens or interferes with life.