Mental and emotional health are greatly affected by chronic physical disorders such as SMA. The symptoms that cause motor problems and other aspects may reduce the quality of life for patients, which can then lead to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.
SMA can be a difficult disease to manage and can very easily affect a person’s mood. While SMA can lead to depression, or even exacerbate a preexisting diagnosis, it is possible to moderate the symptoms of disorders such as major depressive disorder or dysthymia.
Being more social and participating in adapted sports has shown benefits for mental health. Positive social activities can relieve stress, while playing sports can improve self-esteem and lessen depression symptoms. This is in part due to the establishment of friendships and a good support network. Note that there isn’t a lot of published scientific research concerning people with physical disabilities and participation in sports, and most research to date has focused on its physical effects.
Anxiety and Depression
According to studies in adults with SMA, patients’ levels of anxiety and depression were significantly affected by the disease. These mental health issues may cause a lower interest in social activities, limit motivation, and impair cognitive function, which can further reduce quality of life.
Here are some tips on how to deal with depression:
Exercise: Evidence suggests that regular exercise can help manage symptoms of depression. Even a small amount of physical activity allows the body to release endorphins, endogenous cannabinoids, and other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy does more than improve motor skills and mobility; it can also reduce the feeling of being physically stranded, which causes the feeling of helplessness. Being able to move helps SMA patients feel in control and can reduce symptoms of depression.
Humor: A little humor can go a long way. Laughter in the face of a debilitating disease can broaden a patient’s perspective and combat negative feelings associated with anxiety and depression. Learning to embrace the absurdity, even if it does not seem funny in the moment, can have some surprising positive changes.
Being social: It is important to surround patients with people who understand what they are going through. Being social, whether online in community forums or in person with local friends and family, can help with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Volunteering: Some patients struggle to find meaning in their disability or everyday life. A good way to contribute to society is to volunteer, and there are plenty of organizations for disabled people, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association or the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Being supportive: Group therapy and other support groups can greatly impact the mental health of SMA patients. Online communities, such as social media, can connect people who experience the same issues or are similarly disabled. There are movements such as #CripTheVote and #DisabledAndCute on Twitter to show support for disabled individuals.