Depressive episodes and Ataxia: Hello All, Does... - Ataxia UK

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Depressive episodes and Ataxia


Hello All,

Does anyone have experience of this?I have been diagnosed with depression and depressive episodes that lead me into dangerous situations. I've been sectioned twice because of this and my psychiatrist believes my Ataxia or another underlying medical condition to be at fault. All standard blood tests give me a clean bill of health and I'm not considered mentally ill.

Any thoughts?

21 Replies

Hi there

Ataxia does not cause depression per se. However, as with many chronic neurological disorders, people diagnosed with ataxia can develop depression in response/as a reaction to having ataxia.

Best wishes


in reply to HarryB

Thanks Harriet, that is what I always believed. When I was first diagnosed six years ago I was put on antidepressants for a while, which were of minimal help. These recent episodes are something else though!

So difficult to find the underlying cause - but having been on the Thyroid UK Forum for over 8 years I read often of how low nutrients can affect mood - also low thyroid.

So having a B12 level of 500 - Folate and Ferritin at mid-range and VitD at a 100+ if you are UK based - could help. Docs often proclaim everything normal/fine/ok when your results are in range - but it is where you are in the range that is key. Always obtain copies of your test results so you can monitor your progress and check what has been missed. Many surgeries have on-line access so worth checking.

T3 - the active thyroid hormone is often used in psychiactric units I have read.

in reply to Marz

Thanks, I never thought about it that way. I do find that doctors are inclined to ticking boxes and moving on when perhaps a little lateral thinking is in order.

I will try to obtain a copy of my blood results.

in reply to planetzed

Some surgeries now have on-line access to your records and with Enhanced Access you can see your Results. Take ID with you when visiting the surgery to make the request. Sadly not all surgeries have this facility. You do not have to give a reason why you want your results - they are legally yours ... Good Luck !

If you post your results for comment it maybe helpful to tag me so I am alerted or reply to this Reply ...

Dear Planetzed, This is kind of a long story, so please forgive me! Anyway over 20 years ago a cardiac arrythmia I was born with started acting up a lot more then usual after my second child was born. Therefore, my internist put me on Inderal, which is a beta blocker, thinking it might help me. Well, a side effect of Inderal is depression, which I fell into. I saw a psychiatrist, who put me on an anti-depressant. Eventually, I had cardiac ablation to fix my arrythmia. I was starting to feel better, thinking my psychiatrist would wean me off the anti-depressant. Well, I found out my husband had terminal cancer and she said I should stay on the anti-depressant, as we had two children 12 & 14 years old that I'd be raising alone when he passed. He eventually died, and I thought my psychiatrist might wean me off the anti-depressant, but a year after his death I was showing symptoms of ataxia. Therefore, my psychiatrist said I should stay on the anti-depressant, as any chronic disease can cause one to be depressed. She explained that chemicals in my brain needed to be balanced. Therefore, I've been on the antidepressant (Sertraline, which is the generic form of Zoloft) for over 20 years now! I'm an ex-social worker (28 years before I had to retire due to my ataxia progressing) and have been fine since being on the anti-depressant!

Also, my psychiatrist said that sometimes they need to try several different anti-depressants to find one that works for someone. Sertraline worked for me, fortunately! An anti-depressant is not a happy pill, it just balances the chemicals in your brain so you can cope and focus better! I still have moments where I feel down (I call them mini-pity parties...,ha!), but they're short lived. Usually, I'm a pretty happy, positive person, inspite of my ataxia! I hope some of this information is helpful for you! My best to you...,;o)

in reply to february

Hi February, thanks for your story. I think it's quite therapeutic to get your thoughts and experiences down in writing.

I have a six year history of acquired Ataxia caused, I believe, by certain drugs I was given during a four day spell in intensive care.

I was initially prescribed Sertraline for mild depression when I left hospital but didn't really get on with it.

My present problems are something entirely different. I suspect my psychiatrist may be right when she says that, as you found, any chronic illness or condition can cause depression.

My major depressive episodes just come on and I find myself walking down a tunnel and usually ending up in life threatening situations. I'm told I have careless regard to danger.

A month ago I started taking Fluoxetine which seems to be kicking in now . Hopefully it will help balance me out until we can get to the root of my problem.

I did an online self referral for CBT as advised by GP. It started with online questionnaire and phone calls and then referred for one to one a local unit. I had a course of six weekly sessions. It worked very well for me. I was told to apply again for another course if I felt the need but I havent done so. Mine was more anxiety than depression. Hope this helps.

Thanks for the reply.

I initially applied for the same thing (Talking Space plus) but was told my needs were more complex than they can handle. I'm under the community mental health team now.

weird. I have ataxia since 2016, and never had any depressive on earth have you linked it?My mobility is shot, I had to revised many things, completely stop hiking. nOW EXERCISE LIKE MAD, but walking with an aid...…\I don't know enough, but your neurologist cld offer some answers.

in reply to coat2003

Well, I'm pleased you have not suffered with depression.

There is a wealth of information out there regarding chronic health conditions and depression, plus being advised bus psychiatrist is "how the earth I link it".

in reply to planetzed

I had my fair share of it, existential in my 20s. from my bad skin condition, eczema flared up...and others, but made a pact with myself after being diagnosed in 2017, THIS TIME WILL STAY FREE. DEBILITATING ENOUGH ATAXIA...STAY POSITIVE, EXERCISR, EAT GOOD FOOD, TAKE VITS and YOU'LL BE is shyte of a condition, but NOT THE WORST, the big C is. then I get depressed...


I'm so happy that you're managing not to have any depression. That's fantastic.

In my experience I really can't manage without my antidepressants. I first started taking them a few years after diagnosis of unknown sca. After about 4 years the tablets were giving me hot sweats so with the dr's help I very slowly weaned off them.

But after 2-3 months with no anti depressants I was ready to do myself in. I had no appetite. Other people thought I was cheerful and positive but really I just wanted to give up and die.

I'm on a different antidepressant now, and htno intention of coming off them.

BE CAREFUL, WEANING OFF UNDER MEDICAL SUPPORT. PERHAPS DRAW A PLKAN WITH A GP.,,dangerous. I suppose people are some weaker than others...just had one post, quite insulting, that I PATRONISE...anything but?

in reply to coat2003

WHO KNOWS ME BETTER, UNDERSTANDS, THIS WAS SOME JEALOUS ENVIOUS TWIT.WHO CANNOT DEAL WITH THE FACT SOME PEOPLE actually care and want to help. I call them FLAKES. bBring on spring, so they just melt!

in reply to coat2003

It's not all in the mind. Do you really think people choose to be depressed? Your attitude is dismissive and patronising.


Hi coat 2003,

I think you may be confusing depression with feeling down or feeling low. This is very different to depression.

When we feel low then after a bit we can just give ourselves a kick up the jacksy and get on with things. Some people never suffer from depression no matter what hits them in life, and I would say lucky them.

We can't control suffering from depression for those who suffer and I would urge anyone suffering to seek help, whether in the form of medication or therapy.

I don't think you have embraced the spirit of this site by asking another member to not contact you again. We are supposed to be on here to offer each other support, understanding and help, and share our experiences.

Thank you. I don't think I could have summoned up your articularcy 😀

RE depression, I was depressed in 1996.2 years on Prozac, when it still was this WONDER PILLI like helping people, but WILL NOT STAND FOR accusation of being patronizing, as if ask any of your members, who did I ever patronize? Somebody got up from bed on a wrong foot, and completely MISUNDERSTOOD is NOT EASY, whether one is smoking, ataxian like me...WE ALL HAVE A CROSS TO BEAR...Some people can see BLACK AND DEEPER BLACK, some are positive, trying to get byy as best as they can and make LIFE A BIT LIGHTER than it is...My life changed beyond recognition, I am disabled, condition untreatable, no meds exist, it is progressive, but how fast, can be tomorrow or in 20 years I end up in a wheelchair...Soif somebody is snotty with me, I don't have time for that.Plenty of other people are grateful for advice...I'd rather concentrate on majority, not the others.PEOPLE GOOD PEOPLE NEED ME MORE.

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