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In the general population, up to 10 percent of American adults are believed to have some form of depression. However, with Parkinson's disease, this number is believed to be much higher, perhaps up to 50 percent or more. If depression becomes a problem, medications and other alternative therapies can help people with Parkinson's feel better and improve quality of life.

An Introduction to Depression and Parkinson's Disease

Depression is a serious illness that can strike anyone at any age. It is estimated that nearly 10 percent of American adults experience some form of depression every year.
People with Parkinson's disease are not immune to depression. In fact, up to 50 percent of people with Parkinson's disease may also suffer from depression. However, this number may be low, as the true number of people with depression and Parkinson's disease is difficult to determine, given that there are no standardized tests designed to evaluate depression symptoms in the context of Parkinson's disease.

Does Parkinson's Disease Cause Depression?

Unlike the occasional sadness everyone feels due to life's disappointments, depression is a serious illness that profoundly weakens a person's ability to function in everyday situations by affecting moods, thoughts, behaviors, and physical well-being.
The exact cause or causes of depression are currently unknown. However, certain factors can increase the chances for developing depression. This includes certain medical conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.
Similar to depression, Parkinson's disease is a condition that affects the brain. It is a chronic, progressive disorder mainly affecting the motor system, but also affecting thinking and emotion. It results from the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that controls movement. The four primary Parkinson's disease symptoms include:
  • Tremors or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
  • Bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • Postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination.
Individuals may also have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Early symptoms of Parkinson's disease are subtle and occur gradually. At present, there is no way to predict or prevent the disease.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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