How to Avoid Social Isolation When You Have MS

Tips on staying in touch with friends and family when living with MS.

Chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) can have a huge impact on a person’s social life. Symptoms like pain, fatigue, cognitive changes, and loss of mobility can make it difficult to take part in social activities, family gatherings, and events. For some, this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, and in some cases, mood disorders like depression.

There are ways to overcome the challenges of MS and maintain connections with others. If you or a loved one is living with MS, the following strategies may help.

Work with your healthcare provider

This is the most important step you can take when managing a chronic illness like MS. While there is no cure for MS, there are treatments that can help slow the progression of the disease and help you manage symptoms. There are also complementary therapies—such as physical therapy and occupational therapy—that can help you overcome the physical challenges of MS, which can make a big difference in your quality of life.

Get support

Make sure your family and friends understand that you are living with a medical condition, but also make sure they are not your only support system. It can be very helpful to talk to other people who are also living with MS, who have an idea of what you are going through. Look for support groups and counselors who specialize in MS. Also consider volunteering, which can be another way to meet people whose lives have been affected by MS.

Take a break

It can be helpful to talk to other people who are experiencing MS, but it can also be helpful to take a break from the illness with hobbies, activities, and friendships that support the healthy part of you. Don't let your health condition take center stage in all of your activities and relationships.

Stay committed

Commit to stay connected with friends. Set reminders to check in with specific people, schedule regular dates to meet up for coffee, invite friends over for a movie or a game night, and show your support when a friend is taking part in a sport or organized event.

Stay active

Keep your body, mind, and social life active by taking part in a class or group activity. Exercise classes are one option, but you should discuss guidelines for exercising safely with your healthcare provider (such as exercising in a cool environment and staying hydrated) before participating. Even if you have significant mobility issues, there may be exercises that you can do. Activities that challenge your brain—such as painting, drawing, or learning a foreign language—may help improve cognition. Any group activity offers the chance to socialize, meet people, and make friends.

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