Depression and anxiety may be early signs of multiple sclerosis

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New research from the University of British Columbia sheds light on the early signs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), revealing a significant connection between the onset of the disease and the likelihood of experiencing mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

Published in Neurology, the study highlights that these psychiatric conditions might be components of a prodromal phase of MS, signifying early, indirect manifestations of the disease before the occurrence of classical MS symptoms.

A Paradigm Shift in Understanding MS

Traditionally, MS was perceived to clinically begin only when a person experienced their first demyelinating event, like vision problems.

However, recent insights suggest a prodromal phase where the disease manifests itself more indirectly.

Dr. Helen Tremlett and her team have been exploring this early stage, aiming to facilitate earlier detection and intervention, analogous to prodromal periods identified in diseases like Parkinson’s.

Study Methodology and Findings

The research team analyzed health records of 6,863 MS patients, examining the prevalence of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, in the five years preceding the development of recognized signs of MS.

These were compared to 31,865 patients without MS. The study unveiled that MS patients experienced mental illness at nearly double the rate of the general population, with increasing rates of psychiatric conditions observed each year leading up to MS onset.

The Prodromal Phase of MS

The findings suggest the existence of an MS prodrome, characterized by indirect symptoms such as psychiatric conditions, fatigue, sleep disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anemia, and pain.

Understanding this prodromal phase is critical, as it holds the potential to herald the disease onset before the appearance of classical MS symptoms, facilitating early intervention and potentially slowing disease progression.

Recognizing and understanding the prodromal phase of MS can pave the way for early treatment, minimizing the risk of severe attacks and hospitalization, and enhancing the quality of life for MS patients.

It provides hope for more accurate diagnoses, preventing delays and uncertainties that are typically associated with the condition due to its varied and often misinterpreted symptoms.

A Step Forward

This research accentuates the intricate relationship between psychiatric conditions and MS, offering a clearer understanding of the early manifestations of the disease.

While psychiatric conditions alone may not predict MS, they could serve as significant components in identifying early stages of MS when observed alongside other factors.


The research from the University of British Columbia marks a significant advance in the comprehension of the early indicators of Multiple Sclerosis.

By unraveling the subtle, indirect signs in the prodromal phase of MS, this study opens avenues for early detection and intervention, potentially altering the trajectory of the disease.

The findings underscore the importance of considering psychiatric conditions as potential early markers, promising improved prognoses and better quality of life for those living with MS.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and Omega-3 supplements could improve memory functions in older people.

The research findings can be found in Neurology.

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