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Irritability & The HD Patient
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Irritability & The HD Patient
Caring For People With Huntington's Disease
Kansas University Medical Center
We all can become irritable if we are tired, cold, hungry, isolated in pain... These are the basic necessities of life. When these needs are met, then we can work towards other goals and aspirations.
 
If someone with Huntington's disease is irritable, it is imperative that you try to figure out why. This is especially true when the disease has advanced to the point that communication is difficult. So, see if they might be hungry or thirsty, look to see if something may be causing pain or discomfort. If that fails there are other things that should be considered.

Apathy, withdrawal from activities, social isolation, changes in appetite and weight, wide mood swings are all components of depression. About one out five adults in North America will develop at least one episode of clinical depression in their lifetime, making it the most common psychiatric disorder.

Depression can be caused by either a reaction to an external event (e.g., death of someone who is close to you, finding out one is seriously ill) or endogenous (from within). Depression is frequently an initial manifestation of Huntington's disease.

Depression can also occur in the middle to later stages of Huntington's disease as a person is confronted with their diminished ability to do things and by social isolation.

As one of our patients said; "Why don't they come and visit me? I'm not contagious."

Depression can be treated in many ways including:
  • being taken outside of the home for activities
  • social contacts from others
  • regular exercise
  • bright sunlight(useful for seasonal affective disorder)
Sometimes these efforts are not successful and psychotherapy and possibly medications may be needed.
 
Depression should be aggressively treated in people with Huntington's disease. Not only can depression be easily treated, but by treating it the quality of a person's life can be greatly improved. The consequences of not treating depression can include: worsening the depression, loss of contact with friends and family and the very real risk of suicide.

Sometimes depression can be managed without medications, even caffeine has some antidepressant effects along with its stimulating effects. As one of the longest continually used stimulants, caffeine has a good track record and relatively few bad effects, such as withdrawal.

For imformation on other methods of treating depresion, including medications, look at depression at Yahoo for more information on depression.

If you are worried that the one you care for is contemplating suidice visit the home safety page of this site for information about making your home safe for the person with Huntington's disease.