[Webinar Recording] Demoralization, Depression, Meaning, and Parkinson’s

A white woman is sitting, looking like she has demoralization, depression, and meaning with Parkinson's. She has blue eyes, grey hair, and wrinkles. Her hands are clasped under her chin. She is wearing a white shirt on a grey couch.

People with Parkinson’s frequently deal with demoralization, depression, and finding meaning. These symptoms can lead to feelings of demoralization or loss of meaning. In this webinar, Greg Pontone, MD, Indu Subramanian, MD, and Bradley McDaniels, PhD, discuss how these symptoms begin and how to combat them. Watch the interview and then read below for our show notes.

You can download the transcript here.

Note: This is not a flawless word-for-word transcript, but it’s close.

To download the webinar audio, click here.

Show Notes for the webinar on Demoralization, depression, meaning, and parkinson’s

What is Demoralization and What is its Impact on People with Parkinson’s?

According to Jerome Frank, demoralization is the inability to cope. When your symptoms and outside circumstances overwhelm you, it exceeds your coping capabilities and causes demoralization. For people with Parkinson’s, this happens predominantly during diagnosis or with increased symptoms. Those initial unanswered questions, like “What is going to happen next?” or “What even is Parkinson’s?” create a sense of hopelessness, in addition to the changes that are going on in your body. It can lead to apathy, where you no longer want to exercise or have no desire to look for different ways to alleviate your symptoms. Overall, demoralization is a paralyzing feeling of hopelessness. If you’d like to learn more about these symptoms and how to combat them, check out our webinar.

How do clinicians help with demoralization and depression?

The main thing that your clinician can do is approach Parkinson’s holistically. Depression does not just affect mood; it affects your entire nervous system. You are recognizing that, and focusing on how your symptoms interact is best for your clinician to help you. Could you ask for help with day-to-day functioning? This may require medication, adjustments in current protocols, or therapy. Your clinician needs to look at you as a whole person, not just someone with Parkinson’s or depression.

What are The Differences Between Demoralization in People with EARLY-ONSET Parkinson’s and LATER-ONSET Parkinson’s?

For people with later-onset Parkinson’s, demoralization is less likely to happen initially because it’s almost easier to accept. Our bodies naturally deteriorate as we age, so losing motor function seems physically appropriate. For those with young onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD), this is not typically the case. While the motor symptoms are functionally the same, the life circumstances usually are not. A person with YOPD Parkinson’s may have young children. They may be at the beginning of their career. They could be as young as 30 and ready for their life to begin. So, while someone with later-onset Parkinson’s may have already retired and raised their children, a person diagnosed with YOPD must deal with a different life trajectory than expected.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone

Demoralization is challenging to deal with. When you first recognize your symptoms, tell your doctor and follow their suggested treatment plan. Utilize your support system, schedule time with friends and family to do activities you enjoy, join exercise classes, slow down, and find a focus that brings you meaning and purpose. When you first start feeling demoralized, getting out of bed may be impossible, but learning to fill your life with activities you enjoy is one of the best ways to live well with Parkinson’s.

additional resources

about the speakers

Dr. Gregory Pontone Color Headshot. He is helping us talk about demoralization, depression, meaning, and Parkinson's. He is balding with black hair. He has blue eyes, grey eyebrows, and a 5 o'clock shadow. Gregory Pontone, MD

Director of Parkinson’s Neuropsychiatry Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Dr. Gregory Pontone is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He is an Attending Psychiatrist in the Geriatric and Neuropsychiatry division. He is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Parkinson’s Disease Neuropsychiatry Clinic, which focuses on diagnosing and treating the neuropsychiatric aspects of Parkinson’s and related disorders. Dr. Pontone’s research focuses on the interaction between neuropsychiatric symptoms such as cognitive impairment, anxiety and depression, and motor impairment in Parkinson’s.

After completing a medicine internship and residency training in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Pontone completed a two-year fellowship in geriatric psychiatry and movement disorders focusing on Parkinson’s through the Clinical Research Program of the Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center at Johns Hopkins. He also completed a fellowship in Clinical Trial Methods in Neurology sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Dr. Pontone also serves on the Scientific Review Committee and as the chair of the Cognitive/Psychiatric Working Group for an international consortium of Parkinson’s disease researchers, the Parkinson Study Group.

Indu Subramanian, MD

Neurologist and Director of the Southwest PADRECC (Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers), Neurologist at UCLA Health

Dr. Subramanian received her medical degree from the University of Toronto, Canada. She did her neurology residency and movement disorders fellowship training at UCLA. Dr. Subramanian is now a Clinical Professor of Neurology. She established the movement disorder clinic at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration and has assumed the position of the Director of the Southwest PADRECC (Parkinson Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Care) Center of Excellence in Parkinson’s.

Dr. Subramanian is deeply interested in integrative medicine, particularly Yoga and Mindfulness. She underwent a 200-hour yoga teacher training and studied mindfulness at the VA with J.G.Serpa and Christian Wolfe through Insight LA. In addition, she is currently designing a yoga teacher training program for yoga instructors interested in working with people with Parkinson’s. Dr. Subramanian recently got board-certified in Integrative medicine. She is also passionate about palliative care for Parkinson’s, is doing a contemplative fellowship for healthcare providers through the New York Zen Center, and is an AAN Palitucci Fellow.

Dr. Brad McDaniels is a bald white man. He has a five o'clock shadow, a wide, toothy grin, and top frame glasses. He is discussing demoralization, depression, and meaning with Parkinson's.Bradley McDaniels, Ph.D., CRC

Assistant Professor, University of North Texas, Department of Rehabilitation and Health Sciences

Brad is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling, Research, Policy, and Education. After graduating and completing a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University focusing on Parkinson’s, Brad joined the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services at the University of North Texas in the Spring of 2020. Brad’s research focus includes apathy, loneliness, demoralization, illness uncertainty, psychological flexibility, resilience, and the role of meaning in life in people with Parkinson’s.

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*While the generous support of our sponsors makes our educational programs available, their donations do not influence Davis Phinney Foundation content, perspective, or speaker selection.

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