Treating and managing depression in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is as important as treating and managing other symptoms of this central nervous system disease, such as weakness and numbness, says Adam Kaplin, MD, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the departments of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Kaplin is one of only a few neuropsychiatrists specializing in MS.
According to Kaplin, depression is "extremely common in MS," occurring in 15 to 30 percent of people who have MS at any one time, and with a lifetime prevalence of 40 to 60 percent.

"The magnitude of this can't be underestimated," he says. "We also know from studies that many neurologists don’t consider this a priority, and that it is 'the elephant in the room' for them. We can appreciate that short appointment times don't leave much room for asking a patient, 'How's your mood?' In fact, depression is a life-threatening component of MS."

Calling depression "lethal," he cites the following facts:
  • Thirty percent of people with MS will think about suicide.
  • Ten percent will attempt suicide.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people with MS, after cancer and pneumonia.
  • Fifty percent of people with MS have clinical depression.
  • One in four MS patients in the neurology waiting room will have clinical depression.