Responses are provided as general educational resources and should not be interpreted as diagnoses, prognoses, or treatment suggestions.  Information and perspectives represent the views of the individual author(s); Can Do Multiple Sclerosis is not responsible for the accuracy or currency of the responses.  Readers should consult with their healthcare team.

filtered by: Emotional Well-Being (remove)

Psychologist Response

Roz Kalb, PhD

Senior Programs Consultant

The COVID-19 crisis is creating anxiety in all of us. It is a new experience with uncertain outcomes, and no easy answers. None of us is comfortable with this kind of uncertainly, isolation, and limited access to things that are important to us. That being said, it is important to remember that families affected by MS have a lot of experience dealing with unpredictable symptoms, periodic isolation, inability to do at least some things the way they did them in the past. They have already learned to be creative and flexible in the face of challenges. So I would encourage you to look at the strengths you bring to this current situation. Ask yourself how you have coped with anxiety in the past and identify strategies that have worked for you in other situations. Here are some suggestions that may help:


  • Share your feelings with others your trust. Allow yourself 10 or so minutes each day (using a timer) to talk about your anxieties and then focus your attention on another task or pleasurable activity.


  • Limit your time listening to the news. Pick one credible source of COVID information you trust and check it 1-2 times per day. Other time, focus on things you enjoy.


  • Use virtual platforms to connect with people you enjoy spending time with. Catch up on each other’s health and then talk about books, movies, hobbies, or anything else that offers opportunities laughter. Have a shared happy hour, cook/eat a meal with others, play games. It’s all possible virtually, and it can reduce your anxiety.


  • Experiment with activities that calm you – meditation, prayer, spending time in nature, gardening, trying your hand at painting or drawing, writing in a journal.  The Can Do MS Coronavirus and You page has a Daily Reflections worksheet and other resources on mindfulness that may be helpful.


  • Practice gratitude. Remind yourself each day of things you are grateful for and that bring your joy. 


  • Help someone else – virtually. Helping someone else feel better is a wonderful way to feel better yourself.


  • To the extent that you can stay active while quarantining and practicing safe social distancing, exercise can help with managing anxiety.  This Can Do MS webinar has some great information on “working out your worries.”  The Coronavirus and You webpage also has suggestions for at-home exercises.


I hope that you can find a strategy among these suggestions that helps you feel better. If, however, your anxiety continues to get the better of you, your sleep is disrupted, or you just can’t get to a better place, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for help. Virtual counseling sessions are increasingly available. You can also call a National MS Society MS Navigator (1-800-344-4867) for support and referrals.  

Psychologist Response

Roz Kalb, PhD

Senior Programs Consultant

We are all having to be more cautious during this difficult time.

 I think your best strategy is to worry less about whether other people have COVID and focus instead on doing everything you can to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control for optimizing your own safety. The fact is that the virus spreads in communities because many people have COVID without knowing it. They aren’t lying or hiding it, they simply don’t know they have contracted the virus because they have no symptoms. This means that we need to stay at home except for essential trips out – occasionally to the grocery store, for example – and otherwise isolating ourselves as best we can, washing our hands often and well, and making sure that we clean everything that comes into the house from the outside (our mail, clothing we wear when we go out, and so on. It is normal to be cautious but by taking the best possible care of yourself you can feel more secure.

 The Pew Research Center recently published this article suggesting that the coronavirus is indeed impacting our social trust.   

Psychologist Response

Gayle R. Lewis, Ph.D., MSCS

Can Do MS Programs Consultant

It’s so difficult to be given a diagnosis that erodes your sense of control over your body and life, and even more so when you feel that the lens through which your partners sees you has changed so drastically- to be made to feel “special” because he takes on daily chores that perhaps you no longer can do yourself vs. feeling “precious” because of the love and connection you have with and for each other.  Hard at this might be, the only way for him to understand this distinction – and to realize what you perceive to be his “focus of the day” – is to communicate with him openly, honestly, and specifically.

I’m not sure what it is that is making you feel like a burden or what is making it challenging for you to communicate your needs and desires.  Maybe you have tried communicating and “it hasn’t worked.” Maybe you are frightened to bring this topic up, as many people can be when they feel vulnerable. It is very important for you and your husband to set aside a dedicated time, where you both feel safe and undistracted, so you both can talk about your concerns –remember, your husband will also have very real and valid concerns that he may (or may not) want to share.  Be ready to listen and understand where he is coming from.  It’s vital that you be honest and that you allow your husband the time to be honest, as well.

Most importantly, this cannot be a one-off situation. Things won’t change by having just one conversation.  Repetition is needed, reminding is needed- but the reminding must be in ways that you both can tolerate and that doesn’t make you feel like you’re nagging or being a burden.  Your needs matter a great deal – make sure YOU know that.  It will come across in the way you let your husband know.

I hope this provides some comfort that you are not alone in your feelings – they are very common.  At the same time, change requires conscious adaptations in the ways you think and act.  All of this is much easier said than done. That’s why I highly recommend couples therapy with a psychologist/counselor experienced in MS.  I would also recommend that you and your husband find support groups to work through some of your issues.     

I also recommend continuing to learn as much as you can about communication and the emotional issues inherent with MS – for people living with the condition and support partners.  Can Do MS has some wonderful resources, including:


It Takes Two to…Communicate

Together in MS

The Physical and Emotional Aspects of Intimacy in MS


Library Articles

Relationships & Communication

Support is a Two-Way Street

The Physical and Emotional Aspects of Intimacy in MS

Communication is a Two-Way Street

Psychologist Response

Roz Kalb, Ph.D.

Can Do MS Programs Consultant

All of the moods you are expressing – anger, irritability, emotional overwhelm- and the unexplainable and unstable swings in these moods are common, yet underdiagnosed and undertreated, symptoms of MS. 

In MS, your immune system attacks your myelin, the protective covering that coats the nerves of your central nervous system (CNS), creating lesions. If lesions form in the areas of the brain or nerve circuits that regulate mood, this could explain these new expressions.  If you have changed your medication regimen, this could also trigger mood swings.

Besides demyelination and reactions to medication, there are inherent challenges related to both aging and MS that can contribute to mood swings.  For example, depression, which is a common cause of mood swings, is closely associated with the normal process of aging for a myriad of reasons, including increased dependency, loss of loved ones, and grieving associated with health conditions, which, in general, become more prevalent and impactful as we age.

For most people with a chronic illness like MS, as well as their support partners, healthy coping over changes and losses is a common challenge.  Beginning with diagnosis, and again with changes in function or everyday activities, people need to grieve over losses they experience before they can move forward with their lives. Normal grieving ebbs and flows with these changes. Depression, on the other hand, is both a symptom of MS and a reaction to the challenges it poses. More than 50% of people with MS will experience a major depression. For somewhat different reasons, support partners are also at risk for depression. Regardless of the cause, depression deserves the attention of your healthcare team. Accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment – ideally consisting of counseling, medication, and exercise – are important.

Anxiety is as common in MS as depression, but generally receives less attention. People with MS and their support partners experience anxiety over the unpredictable impact of MS on their day-to-day lives and the future. Left untreated, anxiety can interfere with planning, problem-solving, and quality of life. Counseling – with medication, if needed – is an effective treatment strategy.

I would highly recommend for you AND your spouse to speak with your healthcare team, especially a mental health professional, who can work together to manage these mood swings.  For more information on mood changes in MS, please read this article and view this webinar that I co-presented with fellow Can Do MS Programs Consultant, Courtney Macksoud.    

Psychologist Response

Rosalind Kalb, Ph.D.

Can Do MS Programs Consultant Coordinator

Depression is one of the most common symptoms of MS and also one of the most treatable. Although it can range from mild and episodic to severe and chronic, depression frequently responds well to talk therapy (particularly cognitive behavior therapy) and antidepressant medication. Exercise is also known to enhance mood.

Depression is known to be more common in people with MS (as well as other illnesses that have a similar inflammatory component, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) than in the general population or people with most other chronic illnesses. Researchers have concluded that depression in people with MS may have multiple causes, including the MS disease process itself, a reaction to the challenges and losses MS can cause, and a family history or genetic predisposition to depressive illness.

Regardless of the cause, however, the treatment recommendations are the same. It is important to be evaluated by a mental health professional who can help you determine the best course of treatment to get you feeling like yourself again. If an antidepressant medication is recommended, keep in mind that it can take up to 4-6 weeks for the medication to provide optimal benefit, and it may take time to find the right dosage for you with the fewest side effects. Your neurologist may be able to refer you to a mental health professional who is experienced in MS. You can also contact the National MS Society (800-344-4867) for a referral.

For more information, please watch the Can Do MS webinar Discover The Invisible: Pain and Depression in MS and Taking Charge of Depression and Mood Changes, for which I also co-authored an article on this topic.  The National MS Society also has some great resources that you may find helpful.

Psychologist Response

Rosalind Kalb, Ph.D.

Can Do MS Programs Consultant Coordinator

Depression, anxiety, fatigue, and altered cognitive and emotional functions are major symptoms of multiple sclerosis.  Compounded, these can create "mood swings" that can impact your self-care, relationships, work, and overall quality of life. With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of the most common mood changes that occur in MS.

For most people with a chronic illness like MS, as well as their support partners, healthy grieving over changes and losses is part of the picture. Beginning with diagnosis, and again with changes in function or everyday activities, people need to grieve over losses they experience before they can move forward with their lives. Normal grieving ebbs and flows with these changes. Depression, on the other hand, is both a symptom of MS and a reaction to the challenges it poses. More than 50% of people with MS will experience a major depression. For somewhat different reasons, support partners are also at risk for depression. Regardless of the cause, depression deserves the attention of your healthcare team. Accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment – ideally consisting of counseling, medication, and exercise – are important.

Mood swings and irritability are also common symptoms of MS, caused by the disease itself and its challenges. These mood changes can easily be confused with depression, in part because people with MS who are depressed may appear more irritable or moody than tearful. Depression, however, does not come and go in the same way, and will generally continue or worsen until adequate treatment is provided.

Anxiety is as common in MS as depression, but generally receives less attention. People with MS and their support partners experience anxiety over the unpredictable impact of MS on their day-to-day lives and the future. Left untreated, anxiety can interfere with planning, problem-solving, and quality of life. Counseling – with medication, if needed – is an effective treatment strategy.

Physical activity and/or exercise are often recommended as adjunct or even primary therapy for depressed mood, anxiety or stress. While controversy remains, the collective evidence suggests that exercise might indeed be helpful for these conditions in the general population. For persons with MS, exercise appears just as likely to promote psychological well-being. It is likely that aerobic or resistance (aka strength) training can be effective and that the exercise need not be intense. It may even be possible to see the positive effect of exercise on mood after only a single exercise session. Finally while most of the research in this area has been on traditional forms of exercise, yoga, tai chi, and even sport climbing have been shown to improve psychological well-being, including mood, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

Click here to get even more great tips on this topic by viewing our archived webinar on Managing Depression & Mood Changes.  Please also read this article I co-authored, Taking Charge of Depression and Other Mood Changes.  The National MS Society also has some great resources, including Mood Changes.

Knowing that mood swings are a real and common symptom of MS, the first step to recognize when these mood swings occur.  Talk to your family and loved ones, document your moods in a journal or diary, and consult with mental health professionals.  Your healthcare team can then work with you to develop individualized management and coping strategies. 

Psychologist Response

Meghan Beier, Ph.D.

Can Do MS Programs Consultant

The short answer is "yes."  MS patients often present anxiety because of the uncertainty of living with MS, a disease hallmarked by ambiguity.  Data show that 85 percent of people with MS have periods of stable health followed by an episode of worsened symptoms that may or may not fully remit.  Not only are uncontrollable and unforeseeable life change (especially health changes) common causes of anxiety, the changes in the manifestations of anxiety in MS can make it can be hard to diagnose and treat. Being able to cope with this uncertainty is central to managing your anxiety and overall psychological well-being.  I highly recommend acceptance and commitment cognitive therapy. This type of intervention focuses on mindfulness, acceptance, and a commitment to living a life focused on what is important and meaningful—as opposed to living a life based on avoiding or being stuck on challenges, which can also cause or exacerbate anxiety.  Instead, you can identify what is most valuable to you and then uncover a way to obtain that value, despite your MS symptoms.  Because MS affects so many aspects of life, I also recommend you address your anxiety with a multidisciplinary team to allow treatment from many different angles. I often coordinate with psychiatrists, neurologists and physiatrists, as well as physical, speech, and occupational therapists, on a regular basis to provide comprehensive care for patients with MS. 

For more information on anxiety and MS, Can Do MS has an extensive library of resources, including two webinars that I co-presented:  Workout Your Worries: Anxiety and Exercise in MS and Discover the Invisible: Pain And Depression in MS, which includes a section on diagnosing and managing anxiety.

In response to your concern about claustrophobia:  Although I am not aware of any research directly linking claustrophobia to MS, MRIs require being still in a tight, enclosed tube.  If you experience discomfort or fear of confined spaces, your MRIs could certainly exasperate those negative feelings.  I would also bring this up with your healthcare team to come up with some solutions.  I would also recommend this first-hand perspective from an MS patient experiencing similar issues in Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

Answer by Roz Kalb, Ph.D–  Clinical Psychologist and Can Do MS Programs Consultant

As a mental health professional, I know that losing the ability to do something you enjoy is always a painful loss. Regardless of one’s disease course, MS can cause symptoms that gradually or suddenly interfere with home, work, and recreational activities. Watching others continue to do them with apparent ease only makes the loss more challenging to manage. The grieving process is not only normal and healthy, it is the first step towards finding satisfying and enjoyable alternatives that may become passions.

It is important not to compare your grieving to other people.  The grieving process is unique to each individual -- faster for some and slower for others. Some people need to grieve privately while others benefit from sharing the experience with others or with a counselor. Whatever your personal style, the important thing is to allow yourself this grieving time.

The next step is to allow yourself to consider options – looking at new ways to do the things you love and considering new activities that you might never have tried before. People who are forced to give up activities they love may try an activity they would never have considered in the past and discover a new interest.  This may be “easier said than done.”  My biggest recommendation is to utilize your support system and interdisciplinary health care team, who can work together to help you physically and emotionally.  In particular, physical and occupational therapists are great resources to help you explore your options to stay active.


Answer by Mandy Rohrig, PT, DPT –  Physical Therapist and Can Do MS Programs Consultant

As a physical therapist, I recommend a consultation with a rehabilitation professional – either a physical or occupational therapist – who understands MS. These professionals can help you understand your abilities, encourage exercises to optimize those abilities, and make adaptations to accommodate existing challenges.

If you excelled at cycling or did it competitively, you may feel disappointed in doing an adapted version of that sport.  However, you may discover that you love the new challenge. The first step will be choosing the attitude in which you approach finding alternative activities that may need to be adapted to your physical abilities.

You will be happy to know that the world of cycling has expanded greatly to accommodate everyone!  Three-wheel recumbents, arm or leg propulsion, or electric bicycles may be great options for you. I would recommend looking into electric bicycles because they allow you to pedal when able and use the electric feature when fatigued.  Many areas have group classes and outings so you can feel the social connection that you enjoyed with bicycling. 

Exploring other options for adaptive sports may be another strategy.  Nationwide, there are organizations dedicated to providing adaptive sports and recreation, such as golfing, swimming, kayaking, and skiing can be adapted for individuals of varying ability levels.

We would encourage you to explore the following resources: and the National MS Society’s page about adaptive sports

A willingness to consider adaptations and viewing them as tools to participation is essential.  Many people living MS and other conditions have faced similar challenges and have found ways to continue participating in sports they love.  Perhaps speaking to or reading about others can inspire you.  The founder of Can Do MS, Jimmie Heuga, epitomized this spirit of adaption and modification to allow him to continue enjoying skiing despite his disease progression.  I would recommend reading Jimmie’s story:

Thank you for your thoughtful post. We hope you find ways to be active and fulfilled.

Answer by Gayle Lewis, Ph.D. – Psychologist and Can Do MS Programs Consultant

I'm very sorry to hear of your challenges. What you're describing seems to speak both to the depression and fatigue that often accompany MS, as well as the unpredictability of the disease. Having a chronic, unpredictable disease in itself can be very upsetting and overwhelming. Adding low energy, mood shifts, and uncertainty to the equation can understandably create frustration.

First, remind yourself that mood swings are a normal and quite prevalent symptom of MS. Hopefully, understanding that these issues are biological associations to your MS will make you feel less frustrated. Because these mood swings are caused by reactions in your body, they can be treated. YOU CAN BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR MOOD AND FEELINGS, rather than your MS controlling them. Speak to your physician about possible treatment options, including antidepressants or mood stabilizers (depending on what seems more appropriate). Here are some other tips that may help:

  • Mediation is a very regulating, calming and energizing activity that, again, YOU are in control of vs. feeling controlled by your MS.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to be helpful in dealing with emotional and physical fatigue.
  • Speaking to a therapist regularly can be very useful in managing your feelings about your MS and offer ideas how to deal with the disease in ways that are useful to you.
  • Add things to your life that allow you to feel empowered...this alone can have a wonderful capacity to bring you energy and strength.

Secondly, I would highly recommend you implement energy management strategies. It's very difficult to suggest that one conserve energy at times when you actually HAVE energy....but that's very important to do. Ideally, you'd like to motivate your system to be more in balance...and for YOU to be in charge, rather than your MS ruling your feelings. This might mean incorporating tools into your life that make doing chores easier and less time-consuming, getting help from others, and spreading your tasks out throughout the day. An Occupational Therapist can provide ideas about making tasks less energy-evoking.

Finally, it is important to be aware of your changing feelings, moods, and energy levels. Can Do MS recommends keeping a journal and sharing this with your healthcare team. People with MS and support partners are significantly at risk for depression, mood swings, and anxiety. These symptoms have been noticed as a major feature of MS for over 100 years, but are often overlooked by healthcare professionals. You have to be your best advocate and educate yourself. Can Do MS is a great place to start. They have some wonderful articles and webinars on managing depression and fatigue. The National MS Society also has an extensive library devoted to emotional changes and mood changes. I hope these ide

Clinical Psychologist Response
Rosalind Kalb, PhD
Can Do MS Programs Consultant

I’m so glad that you’ve reached out to Can Do MS for suggestions. You’re dealing with many different stressors, each of which can be a lot to handle. I think that the key to managing so many complicated issues is to make sure that you’re tapping all the resources that are available to help you; no one should feel that she or he has to do this alone.

I would start by thinking about the things that worry you the most, and tackle them one by one. So, for example, if you have financial concerns, make sure that you reach out to get some expert guidance. The National MS Society offers a free consultation with a financial planner, as well as ongoing assistance with questions/concerns. You can get information about this by calling 1-800-344-4867. If you are concerned about long-term care issues, or how to go about finding long-term care resources should the need arise, now is the time to start talking about your priorities and getting information about the available options – beginning with help in the home and extending to day programs, assisted living, as well as nursing homes. None of us make our best decisions when we’re in a crisis, so talking and planning today helps you feel more prepared and less vulnerable whatever the future brings. These are just two examples, but the point is that one good way to relieve stress is to identify the tools and strategies you can use to address the things that worry your most. Knowing that you have plans and strategies in place, can help you stop ruminating about “What if this happens? What if that happens?”

A second critical strategy is to make sure that you are getting the emotional support you need. Staying connected with family and friends is important. Too often, people tend to withdraw from others and become isolated just at the time when those connections are most important. In addition to maintaining your social support network, you may want to consider talking with a counselor with expertise in health and chronic illness issues. Talking through your concerns, identifying options and strategies, and getting support for yourself can help you feel less stressed and more empowered to deal with whatever occurs. By calling that same number at the National MS Society – 1-800-344-4867 – you can get the names of therapists in your area.

The third important strategy is to make sure you’re paying enough attention to your own health and wellness. When dealing with chronic illnesses of various kinds, it’s very easy to become so focused on the medical issues that you neglect your overall well-being. Taking time to do things you enjoy, attending to your medical and dental preventive care needs, taking care of your spiritual needs, and finding whatever stress management techniques work best for you are all essential components of wellness. If you don’t know what activities best relieve your stress, the therapist can help you identify them – whether it’s time with friends, prayer, meditation, a hobby, journaling, or time in your garden, or something else entirely. Building these activities into your life is like physical therapy for your mind – keeping you calmer and more balanced.

And last but certainly not least, exercise is a wonderful stress management technique that is also good for your emotional well-being, cognitive functioning, and overall health. A physical therapist can help you identify an exercise routine that fits your abilities and limitations – whether it’s walking, swimming, or anything other physical activity that appeals to you.

Taking time to attend to your own health and wellness is essential for relieving stress and will also help you be a more effective care partner for your husband. I wish you the very best.


Registered Nurse Response
Jennifer Smrtka, ANP-BC, MSCN
Can Do MS Programs Consultant

Unfortunately, flu-like symptoms are common potential side effects with all interferon beta therapies used in MS. But there are some important tips that one can utilize to lessen the likelihood of losing days due to these symptoms.

First, make sure to be hydrated; especially on days of injections and “MS Monster days”, this can decrease flu like symptoms and their severity. Secondly, it may be helpful to take acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ibuprofen (Advil®), or naproxen sodium (Aleve®) an hour before injecting (at bedtime) and then re-dose again in the morning after breakfast. It may be helpful to take these medications for 24 hours after the injection. Thirdly, it may be helpful to take the injection in the evening before bedtime in an attempt to sleep through some of the side effects. Lastly, if you continue to struggle with your injections, speak to your neurologist and let him/her know your troubles. There are many options available and there may be a better option for you.

Emotionally, sleep deprivation can lead to feeling overwhelmed and “scatter brain”, as well as having difficulties with concentration, and coping strategies. It is hard to stay organized when you are exhausted and not feeling well. Perhaps using some organizational tools maybe helpful- such as a smart-phone to set reminders and alarms, or a personal organizer with a calendar. A centrally located “family calendar” may also be helpful with your husband and son’s assistance to complete for upcoming events. Weekly or even daily family staff meetings over dinner to communicate and establish what needs to be done on a day to day basis can also be helpful and share the burden of family tasks. There are websites that also have organizational tools for families.

Check out:;;;

Psychologist Response
Deborah Miller, PhD
Can Do MS Programs Consultant

First, the person should explore options for general health, including mental health, insurance through their state or the Federal Insurance Market Place. You can locate this agency online at On the site, select the state of your residence in the dropdown menu.

We know from literature that the best approach to managing depressions is counseling, medication, and exercise. If an individual is truly locked out of obtaining mental health insurance, there are number of potential options for addressing each of these treatment components. For free/sliding scale counseling services, contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at 1-800-FIGHT-MS to determine what counseling services are offered. Other options are to contact the United Way to learn about community mental health agencies that provide free or sliding scale counseling services. Many community mental health agencies and free clinics include physician care, and those doctors evaluate a person’s mental health status and can provide prescriptions for antidepressants and information about pharmaceutical drug assistance programs. Finally, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has great information in print and online about exercise options for people with MS. To access these resources, please click here.

All of these recommendations require motivation and energy, two commodities that are probably in short supply for someone with MS who has depression. It may be very difficult for someone in that situation to follow through on these recommendations. The first step for such a person is to reach out to a family member or friend, acknowledge the depression, and ask for help. Partnering with a support person is a positive first step in this road to treating depression.