Psychiatric symptoms are common in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Patients often present with mood disorders, anxiety, and psychosis. These symptoms could reflect the direct or indirect effect of the autoimmune disorder on the CNS, may be connected to disease treatments, or may be a direct psychological effect of suffering with the disease.
Psychiatric symptoms are well-known risk factors for suicide. Studies on suicide risk in patients with MS have shown that the risk is higher than in the general population. In this study, the researchers sought to identify risk factors for suicidal ideation in patients with MS.
A sample of 188 subjects randomly selected from a community-based MS clinic registry in Canada participated in as many as 13 interviews over 6 months. Over the course of this period, 22.1% of respondents reported having suicidal thoughts at least once.
Predictors of suicidal ideation included age, lower task-oriented coping, self-reported bladder or bowel symptoms, and difficulties with speaking and swallowing.
This study is potentially limited by possible selection bias in the patient population and short-term follow-up. Nevertheless, the study identified that suicidal thoughts are common and several potentially modifiable factors may be useful for preventing suicide in patients with MS.
• Results from this study suggest that suicidal thoughts are common in patients with MS.
• These findings support the supposition that the mental health status of patients with MS should be evaluated routinely, both immediately after diagnosis and in later stages of the disease.
1. Viner R, Patten SB, Berzins S, et al. Prevalence and risk factors for suicidal ideation in a multiple sclerosis population. J Psychosom Res. 2014;76:312-316.