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The link between Parkinson's disease and depression

Updated: 08/15/2014 5:23 PM
Created: 08/15/2014 4:56 PM WHEC.com
By: Rebecca Fath

The recent death of actor-comedian Robin Williams is prompting conversation about mental health and depression.

On Thursday, his wife shared that Williams was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the diagnosis was hard for him to handle.

Parkinson’s diseases is a neurological condition that doctors say often causes depression.

“I take medications every two hours and 40 minutes and as that time to take the medications again occurs, then what happens is I get fatigued, I get tired.” Gary Hilburger has Parkinson’s disease, the same condition Robin Williams was diagnosed with. Hilburger can relate. He says the neurological diseases causes him anxiety and makes him sometimes feel low.

Neurologist Dr. Irene Richard says about 50-percent of patients with Parkinson’s develop symptoms of depression. “Depression is one of the manifestations of Parkinson’s diseases. There are changes in the brain of a person that has Parkinson’s disease.”

The diagnosis could understandably make someone feel even more hopeless. Dr. Richards said, “If you're suffering from depression, I would expect that you'd be more psychologically vulnerable to any kind of bad news.”

Meanwhile, Hilburger exercises to combat feeling blue. He refuses to let Parkinson’s disease define him. “I don't want to go out as a guy in a wheelchair.  I want to feel like a hero inside and act like a hero to my kids.”

Both Hilburger and Dr. Richards insist Parkinson ’s disease can be managed with medication.

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