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Fighting Depression and MS Through Clinical Therapy

Lorin DeCamp believes that the psychological counseling she received at Cleveland Clinic is essential to her battle with multiple sclerosis.
Lorin DeCamp believes that the psychological counseling she received at Cleveland Clinic is essential to her battle with multiple sclerosis.

Lorin DeCamp might like to forget 2013. The 57-year-old Parma Heights woman already was dealing with diminishing motor function because of multiple sclerosis, diagnosed in 2002. Then she lost her husband to a sudden illness.

“Those were the hardest days of my life,” she says.

Fortunately, she had her strong faith, family and a well-established healthcare regimen that included addressing her mind and emotions as well as her body.

In 2011, Mrs. DeCamp began seeing Amy Sullivan, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and Director of Behavioral Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research. Dr. Sullivan is one of several doctors at the center coordinating Ms. DeCamp’s care.

“I have been working through my grief and depression, resulting from increased loss of use of my right hand and right leg. The thought of losing my independence was weighing heavily on my mind,” says Ms. DeCamp, who uses a walker.

“MS does not control my life or define me. I have MS; it does not have me.”

Having a health psychologist embedded in the Mellen Center distinguishes Cleveland Clinic from other neurology centers and is an important aspect of multiple sclerosis treatment, Dr. Sullivan says.

“Depression, anxiety, mood swings and medication side-effects are common among MS patients,” she says. “Mellen Center patients have direct access to onsite health psychology services through individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, couples/marital therapy, and more.”

Research shows that depression is prevalent in up to fifty percent of patients with MS. It's likely as many as seventy percent are dealing with anxiety and stress as well, Dr. Sullivan says.

“What we do know about depression in MS is that it is one of the most treatable symptoms of the disease,” she says. “We also know that stress contributes to MS disease progression.”

Treatment ranges from managing mood and improving function to addressing family issues and fears about the future.

Mrs. DeCamp defies the sometimes negative stereotypes about those seeking the help of a psychologist, Dr. Sullivan notes.

“She is psychologically savvy and bright, and so it is important for me to continually provide new and innovative thinking to our therapy approach as well as personal challenges for her,” she says. “The treatment approach that I have utilized successfully with Lorin has been a mixture of interpersonal therapy, adjustment and grief work, and cognitive-behavioral work.

“My hope is that through Lorin’s example, others can see how normal it is to seek psychological counseling and to not be restrained by the stigma attached to mental health.”

At the same time, the Mellen Center’s occupational therapists are working to build strength on Ms. DeCamp’s right side. Following one evaluation, it was recommended that a left-foot adaptation be added to her vehicle — versus hand controls — so she can continue to drive.

“I am pleased to say the left-foot adaptation has worked out very well,” Ms. DeCamp says.

She describes her relationship with Dr. Sullivan as a strong one, helping her to draw on inner strength to work through life’s most daunting challenges. Based on her glass half-full attitude, the therapy appears to be working.

“MS does not control my life or define me,” she says. “I have MS; it does not have me.”

Related Institutes: Neurological Institute
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