MS and Loneliness: 5 Ways to Combat Feelings of Isolation

By Beth W. Orenstein
Reviewed by Susan Ko, Ph.D.
October 10, 2022

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS) and have experienced moments of loneliness and/or isolation because of the disease, you’re not alone. In a survey conducted by the MS Society in 2017, 3 out of 5 people with MS said their condition made them feel lonely.

There are several factors that can contribute to loneliness and isolation in people with MS, according to a study published in March 2022 in Health and Social Care in the Community and one of its authors, Lauren B. Strober, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Kessler Institute of Rehabilitation in Rahway, New Jersey:

  • The unpredictability of MS. You may not know when you’re going to have a bad day, and that makes it difficult to make plans to do things with others.
  • Restrictive symptoms. MS symptoms such as bladder incontinence, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, and pain may be tough to explain to others and get in the way of social activity.
  • Mobility issues. It’s harder to be active and part of a community when you can’t get around easily.
  • Unemployment. People with MS not only experience high unemployment (up to 80%) but also often have to leave the workforce prematurely—within three to five years of diagnosis—which means fewer workplace interactions.

In addition, it can be very difficult for a person with MS to adjust to and accept their body’s changes as their disease progresses, says Anthony Feinstein, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and author of Mind, Mood, and Memory: The Neurobehavioral Consequences of Multiple Sclerosis.