3 Tips for Dealing With SMA-Related Depression

Brianna Albers avatar

by Brianna Albers |

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Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) can be a difficult disease to manage, and can very easily impact 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 (MDD) or dysthymia.

MORE: Four things to help with depression

We’ve put together some tips for dealing with depression with SMA patients in mind.

There is plenty of evidence that regular exercise can help with symptoms of depression, but it can be hard for people with SMA to engage in daily fitness activities. It may not be possible to spend a few hours at the gym, for example. However, even a small amount of physical activity will help the body release what the Mayo Clinic calls “feel-good chemicals”: endorphins, endogenous cannabinoids, and other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Floating or, if you’re physically strong enough, swimming in a pool can help the body feel more mobile, and even reduce the feeling of being physically stranded.

Physical therapy
Physical therapy is demonstrably beneficial for people with SMA, but it may also help with depression by, again, reducing the feeling of being physically stranded. Wheelchairs and other assistive devices are helpful, but they can sometimes feel confining, adding to the sense of helplessness that patients with depression — especially those with SMA — may feel. Being able to move your body can help you feel in control, even if only for a little while. Just make sure you don’t overdo it!

A little humor can go a long way. Teaching yourself to laugh, even if your life doesn’t seem all that funny in the moment, broadens your perspective and blunts your attitude. Your experiences with SMA aren’t always amusing, but if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll find that specific things come to mind as being ridiculous or unbelievable. That time your chair tipped over in the middle of the playground! All the awkward conversations you’ve had with your doctors! Learn to embrace the absurdity of everything you’ve been through. Acknowledge the fact that most people probably wouldn’t have handled it as well as you. You’ll be surprised what these tiny changes in your thinking can do for your depression.

Have some tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below. 

MORE: Three things to help with depression, part two

SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.