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medical MS

The power of suggestion

I was poring over some information on a new drug I was going to start when I ran across a fascinating table. It was listing the incidence of side effects with the drug as opposed to the group on the placebo. It was no surprise to find the drug had some side effects,what did surprise me was how there were side effects ascribed to the placebo as well. All of the instances of dizziness, upset stomachs, dry mouth, etc. in the placebo group had to have been caused by something else and yet I’m sure that those people blamed the pill they were taking because they were being asked about it. When they fill in the questionnaire about effects of the pill, any old thing that happened would be the pill’s fault.

Man, if I were in a study like that, I’d go crazy. I’m sure I would constantly try to outguess the study, to try to figure out if I got the placebo or not. Hell, I do that every day with MS. Any little twinge I feel I start to wonder if it is the MS or something else. It’s one of the more maddening aspects of this disease, it could manifest itself in almost any way.

My doctor threw in another wild card for me yesterday. I had just started to take some samples of the pill I mentioned earlier and I was talking to him about how it affected me. One thing that I noticed was how hungry I felt when I took the pill. That confused me because I thought that stimulants were supposed to suppress appetites. I haven’t really felt hungry for a long time now. I do feel the effects of being hungry, but I don’t really feel hungry if you know what I mean. One other thing that I mentioned was several times during the past week I suddenly felt as though I was on the verge of tears without knowing why. I wasn’t sad, or morose or anything, and the feeling passed fairly quickly. Still, it was unnerving. I figured it was a side effect of the pill. The doc pointed out that if I had felt that on a day I hadn’t taken the pill it wasn’t the pill. Hmmm..

He mentioned some syndrome about as long as my arm that described patients with lesions in the frontal lobe experiencing the physical aspects of emotions without feeling the emotion itself. Ugh. He checked my latest MRI and said he didn’t see any evidence of that. Whew!

Then he asked, “Do you think you’re depressed?” Well no, not really. He said that some of the symptoms fit, tiredness, cloudy thinking, lack of appetite, desire to sleep all the time… On top of that he also told me that some tremendous number of MS patients are also clinically depressed. Sometimes that’s from coping with a chronic condition, but other times it can actually stem from physical changes in the brain.

Great. I really don’t feel depressed, or morose, cynical, or anything like that. Yes, I do get blue and upset over my condition but I’m mostly optimistic in my life. Still, there are a lot of other symptoms that I have… Grrr…. Now I’m wondering if what ails me on any given day is MS, or depression, or maybe MS related depression, or MS caused depression…. Oh and guess what, there are pills for that too! I’m so sick of being offered pills, I’m so sick of worrying about juggling side effects. I am really leery about mood altering drugs. Anytime prescriptions for a certain type of drug skyrockets over a short period of time I am very suspicious. Anti-depressants certainly fall into that category.

My doctor did speculate that one of the reasons I might have felt hungry when I took the stimulant was that it lifted my mood. If my appetite had been surprised via depression, that would make some sense. Of course that also feeds into the suggestion that I actually am depressed but don’t realize it. For now, I am going to try this new pill and see how that works. I am going to continue to put off anti-depressants until there aren’t any other options, or until I convince myself that I really am depressed. Ugh.

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