The emotional and psychological impact of multiple sclerosis relapses

J Neurol Sci. 2007 May 15;256 Suppl 1:S29-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2007.01.061. Epub 2007 Mar 9.


Acute relapses of multiple sclerosis (MS) are experienced as crises that disrupt the status quo for individuals with MS and their families. These unpredictable--and always unexpected--events elicit strong reactions, including grief, anxiety, anger, and guilt, as people struggle to understand why they occur. Although early relapses are a signal for most MS specialists to recommend treatment with one of the approved disease-modifying therapies, the remissions that follow contribute to patient and family denial about the realities of the disease, making it difficult for patients to begin and to adhere to ongoing treatment. Each ensuing attack confronts this denial, forcing patients and families to acknowledge the MS diagnosis and begin adapting to the demands of the illness in their daily lives. This paper discusses the meaning attributed by individuals and families to relapses leading to the MS diagnosis and the recommendation for disease-modifying therapy, the adjustments that are made by patients and their families to residual deficits following acute episodes, and suggestions for clinicians on how they might facilitate the adjustment process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / psychology*
  • Psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Recurrence