Young woman taking thoughtful breaths for MS and anxiety mental health awareness week

MS and Anxiety for Mental Health Awareness week

For Mental Health Awareness Week (15-21 May), Helpline supervisor Laura explains the link between MS and anxiety

MS and anxiety can often go hand in hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety. Anxiety is something experienced by many people and is seen as a normal emotion. It’s a response to uncertain feelings. Sometimes those anxious thoughts and feelings can take over and become a mental health problem.

There are many things that can lead to feelings of anxiety, including relationships, work, money, big life events. A diagnosis of a long-term health condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), is definitely in the category of a big life event.

Anxiety presents itself in different ways, one person may experience an increased heart rate and loss of appetite, whereas another person may have headaches and breathlessness. It can be hard to relax if feeling tense, or maybe nervous. Anxiety can lead to poor concentration and disturbed sleep.

Mental Health Awareness Week is an important week to help increase people’s understanding of anxiety.

MS and anxiety

Living with MS can lead to feelings of anxiety. The uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis and the fluctuating symptoms can be hard to manage. Relapses can create anxiety, or the worry of when a new relapse may appear. Transitioning from relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) to secondary progressive MS (SPMS) and also the varying rates of disease progression for those diagnosed with primary progressive MS (PPMS) are all valid reasons why anxiety may rear its head.

Anxiety can be overwhelming. MS can also cause anxiety as a result of the condition itself. Inflammation occurs in various parts of the brain and when the brain experiences damage and stress, it is not uncommon for a person to experience anxiety.

MS-UK have a useful Choices booklet titled MS and Mental Health. The booklet explores anxiety and depression along with other ways MS can impact mental health. You can read up on self-help techniques and discover downloadable apps to help support mental health. We spoke with the MS community and they provided us with tips on how they manage their mental health whilst living with MS.

Managing anxiety

It is good to talk. It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about the impact of MS on mental health, especially if feelings of anxiety are creeping in and not going away or you are finding them hard to manage. There are many approaches used to help support mental health, whether it be through counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

MS-UK hold a directory of private counsellors who have all completed ‘counselling people with MS’ training. You can trust they all have an understanding of the condition and how it can impact your life. Many of the counsellors on the list offer a discounted rate for people affected by MS. Please contact the MS-UK helpline if you would like to access the directory.

Mindfulness is another way of helping to manage anxiety. When practiced regularly it can help people to become more aware of the present moment. Studies show that it can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness has the potential to help people to switch off or manage emotional reactivity to anxiety-inducing situations.

Mindfulness courses

MS-UK offer online mindfulness courses through My Portal. You need to register with My Portal to access classes and all the other online activities on offer. Registering can either be as a standard subscription whereby you pay for sessions as you go, or a monthly subscription or annual subscription giving unlimited access to upcoming events and recordings.

There are many ways to help support your mental health and help manage feelings of anxiety. The MS-UK helpline can help to signpost to our counselling directory, as well as a variety of organisations offering free or low-cost counselling. The MS-UK helpline is available Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. You can call 0800 783 0518, email to or chat online via live webchat on the website

Double your donation, double your impact

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and, for this week only, everything you donate with be DOUBLED by Big Give. With your help, we can reach even more people with MS to help stop loneliness and isolation. But hurry, it’s only for donations made Monday 15 May until 12pm Monday 22 May! 

Click below to double your donation