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How can dystonia affect a person's mental and emotional health?

Although dystonia is a movement disorder that affects the physical body, it can also affect emotional and psychological health.

Not only is the very nature of dystonia (particularly aspects like pain and disability) stressful, but also the areas of the brain affected by dystonia are associated, in part, with thinking and emotion as well as muscle movement.

For years, mental health professionals have recognized that coping with a chronic disorder like dystonia is similar to grieving a loss, such as a death or divorce. Common phases of dealing with dystonia include denial, guilt and shame, anger, bargaining, fear, depression and acceptance. In some cases, the adjustment to chronic illness is so drastic that an individual's experience is comparable to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affects survivors of combat or intense violence.

Similarly, the area of the brain that is implicated in dystonia, called the basal ganglia, is associated with not only controlling muscle movement, but also mood and behaviors, so it is not surprising that there is some evidence that people with dystonia may be at a higher risk of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety than the general population.

This content originally appeared on the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation website at www.dystonia-foundation.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.