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Psychologist Says Tackling Motor Symptoms of Parkinson's Starts With Mind

02/23/11  Portland, Ore.

Kristy Hanna, Ph.D., is a featured speaker at Saturday's 'Options and Opportunities'.

Coping with some of the debilitating physical effects of Parkinson's disease may be a matter of mind over body, an integrative medicine expert says.

Kristine Hanna, Ph.D., a former psychologist with the Integrative Medicine Program at the Oregon Health & Science University Center for Women's Health, and founder of Integrative Health Northwest, P.C., in Lake Oswego, says dealing with the mind, particularly the anxiety and depression that may accompany a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, is an important aspect of treatment programs for people and families affected by the degenerative neurological disorder.

"Studies have shown up to 40 percent of people with Parkinson's disease struggle with anxiety and/or depression. The presence of anxiety and depression is thought to have an important impact on motivation, treatment compliance, and cognition, as well as cause a significant deterioration of parkinsonian symptoms," Hanna says.

"Anxiety and depression have also been found to have a pronounced impact on quality of life, some believe an equal or even greater impact than the physical symptoms of the disease."

Hanna is a featured speaker at "Options and Opportunities: Living Well with PD," the 24th annual symposium for Parkinson's disease patients, their families and health care providers. The event is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Red Lion Hotel on the River, Jantzen Beach, 909 N. Hayden Island Drive, Portland.

This year's symposium will focus on the benefits of exercise, wellness, mind-body medicine and nutrition in Parkinson's disease. There also will be an update on current research. It is presented by the Parkinson Center of Oregon at Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Parkinson's Disease Research, Education and Clinical Care Center (PADRECC).

Hanna will discuss "Staying Connected: The Importance of Relationships for Mind-Body Wellness." According to the National Institutes of Health, mind-body medicine combines techniques, including relaxation and mental healing, aimed at enhancing the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms.

Hanna says maintaining strong social networks, such as staying in touch with friends and relatives, or spending time with a group of people with similar interests, is an area of mind-body medicine she emphasizes with her patients. Staying socially active, she says, keeps the mind sharp and better able to "game plan" treatment, as well as help ward off anxiety and depression in a population at risk for such issues.

"When people have a condition like Parkinson's disease, they often can do a lot of 'catastrophe thinking' and have a tendency to want to isolate themselves," Hanna explains. She says she works with patients to "help identify that early and give them coping skills to deal with it. If they do, they're more likely to remain treatment compliant and improve their quality of life. They're more likely to engage in Pilates or tai chi" or other exercise programs that can alleviate physical symptoms of the disorder.

Hanna also encourages Parkinson's patients to trigger the "relaxation response" through deep breathing, which she calls the "umbrella of relaxation skills."

"The nice thing about mind-body techniques is they often are things (patients) can practice at home. They're simple," Hanna says. "For example, we all know how to breathe. Deep breathing is a simple way to trigger the relaxation response. That is probably the most basic of the mind-body techniques and the most well received."

Registration for "Options and Opportunities" is $30 per person and includes lunch. For information, call the Parkinson Center of Oregon at 503 494-9054. Veterans can register at 503 721-1091.

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