Thinking and emotions


The cognitive and emotional symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) can have just as much of an impact on your quality of life as your physical symptoms. Here we explore the range of symptoms that fall under these umbrellas.

Make sure you talk to your doctor if cognitive or emotional problems are having an impact on your quality of life, as they will be able to give you advice and support to help you manage your symptoms.

As you probably know, problems with thinking, memory and concentration (sometimes grouped together as cognitive problems) are common in people living with MS. As we all age, some of our cognitive abilities start to decrease. But, when living with MS, there’s about a 50% chance you will develop problems with cognition at some point in your life.

Problems with cognition can make a number of things difficult. People may experience:

  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Problems with participating in group discussions
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Find making decisions hard

You may have already found ways to deal with any cognitive difficulties you are having, such as writing things down so you don’t forget them or giving yourself more time to do certain tasks. You should also get advice from your doctor or MS nurse as they can help you identify areas where you could benefit from some help, in addition to suggesting some exercises or tips.


Charlotte lives with MS and finds that her cognitive problems impact her day-to-day life, here are some of her strategies for managing her symptoms:

  1. Take more breaks - if you find that you can’t concentrate for too long take regular but short breaks
  2. Prioritise tasks – start with the ones that require the most attention and concentration and leave the easier ones for when you are likely to be more tired
  3. Try meditation or mindfulness – it can help you to relax and get your thoughts in order
  4. Keeping your mind active – challenge your brain by doing different things, reading or seeing friends
  5. Make your memory work – if you have a subject you are passionate about and enjoy try taking a course, it can help to keep your mind sharp

Although there are many ways you can help to manage your cognitive symptoms, you shouldn’t be compromising every aspect of your life to fit around them. If you’re struggling, talk to your doctor.

From changes in your mood to depression and anxiety, MS often has a significant effect on emotional health. It’s important not to overlook your emotional wellbeing or to dismiss how you’re feeling as a reaction to your MS diagnosis, as this can be caused by MS itself.

MS can interfere with the transmission of signals that affect mood. Studies have suggested that depression is more common among people living with MS than it is in the general population.

Emotional problems with MS can be wide-ranging but include problems with:

  1. Depression or anxiety
  2. Self esteem
  3. Mood swings

If you are experiencing emotional problems, whether its depression, stress, anxiety or any other troubling feelings, there are a number of approaches that could help. Make sure you talk to your doctor or MS nurse if you’re experiencing problems with your emotional health, as they can offer talking therapies or psychological therapies that can help. Here are a few types they might recommend:

  1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – this is a therapy that helps you to understand how certain situations can influence how we think and feel. This therapy can help you to use strategies to help you adopt new ways of thinking
  2. Mindfulness - a therapy to help you to understand and accept your emotions
  3. Counselling – talking to someone can really help you to put things in perspective and to manage different situations

Talking things through can feel like a big relief whether it’s with your doctor, friends, family or an MS support group. Join the MS One to One community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to receive support and find your voice while living with MS.

  1. Memory and thinking. MS Society UK. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  2. Cognitive skills and normal aging. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  3. Cognition and cognitive symptoms. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  4. Managing memory gaps and other cognitive problems. Available at: [Insert new MS One to One URL here]. Last accessed: October 2017.
  5. MS and your emotions. MS Society UK. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.
  6. Depression. MS Trust. Available at: Last accessed: October 2017.

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