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Spiritual Meaning Of Parkinson’s Disease

The spiritual meaning of Parkinson’s disease represents the more challenging journey you will face while learning to cope with this debilitating illness. Dealing with a new diagnosis can be one of the most difficult times in your life.

Parkinson’s disease is classified as a degenerative disorder affecting the central nervous system, which includes the brain, along with the spinal cord. This occurs when nerve cells start to die, causing difficulties with movement and mental abilities over time. If you’ve ever suffered from Parkinson’s disease, you know all too well just how confusing this disorder can be for you and your family. So what exactly does one do when facing such a disorder? How can you make it through? This article aims to help spiritual individuals in this time of need by offering tips and techniques all are welcome to try out!

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brain, resulting in movement problems and difficulty with coordination. While the cause of Parkinson’s is still not known, there are some spiritual meanings that can be applied to the experience of living with this condition.

Spiritual Meaning Of Parkinson’s Disease

One spiritual meaning of Parkinson’s disease is that it teaches us about how we live our lives. When we are diagnosed with Parkinson’s, we are forced to confront our mortality and understand that our life will not go on forever. This can be a very difficult reality for people who have been focused on their career goals or other ambitions for years, but when we learn to accept this truth, it can help us find peace and clarity in our lives.

Another spiritual meaning of Parkinson’s disease is that it helps us realize how important it is to have compassion for others who are suffering from physical ailments or disabilities. Our society tends to view these kinds of conditions as something “bad” or “wrong,” but when we begin to see them through a spiritual lens, we realize that all beings are interconnected by their shared humanity—and therefore deserving of compassion and understanding regardless of their physical limitations or achievements.

Finally, Parkinson’s disease teaches us about compassion for ourselves as well as others because

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that causes the body to lose control of its movements. It is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, which affects how much dopamine is available for use by the remaining brain cells. This can cause tremors and slow movement, as well as difficulty with balance and coordination.

The condition has been linked to stress and depression, which can result from the fact that Parkinson’s patients often lose their ability to perform simple tasks such as tying their shoes or writing with a pen. This can make them feel like they are no longer able to contribute to society in any meaningful way, which can lead them down a path of self-doubt and isolation.

Parkinson’s disease is a type of movement disorder that can affect the ability to perform common, daily activities. It is a chronic and progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms become worse over time. It is characterized by its most common of motor symptoms – tremors (a form of rhythmic shaking), stiffness or rigidity of the muscles, and slowness of movement (called bradykinesia) – but also manifests in non-motor symptoms including sleep problems, constipation, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, among others.

It can be hard to tell if you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Below are 10 signs that you might have the disease. No single one of these signs means that you should worry, but if you have more than one sign you should consider making an appointment to talk to your doctor.


Have you noticed a slight shaking or tremor in your finger, thumb, hand or chin? A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?
Shaking can be normal after lots of exercise, if you are stressed or if you have been injured. Shaking could also be caused by a medicine you take.

Small Handwriting

Has your handwriting gotten much smaller than it was in the past? You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together. A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease called micrographia.

What is normal?
Sometimes writing can change as you get older, if you have stiff hands or fingers or poor vision.

Loss of Smell

Have you noticed you no longer smell certain foods very well? If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s.

What is normal?
Your sense of smell can be changed by a cold, flu or a stuffy nose, but it should come back when you are better.

Trouble Sleeping

Do you thrash around in bed or act out dreams when you are deeply asleep? Sometimes, your spouse will notice or will want to move to another bed. Sudden movements during sleep may be a sign of Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?
It is normal for everyone to have a night when they ‘toss and turn’ instead of sleeping. Similarly, quick jerks of the body when initiation sleep or when in lighter sleep are common and often normal.

Trouble Moving or Walking

Do you feel stiff in your body, arms or legs? Have others noticed that your arms don’t swing like they used to when you walk? Sometimes stiffness goes away as you move. If it does not, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease. An early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulder or hips. People sometimes say their feet seem “stuck to the floor.”

What is normal?
If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.


Do you have trouble moving your bowels without straining every day? Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson’s disease and you should talk to your doctor.

What is normal?
If you do not have enough water or fiber in your diet, it can cause problems in the bathroom. Also, some medicines, especially those used for pain, will cause constipation. If there is no other reason such as diet or medicine that would cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, you should speak with your doctor.

A Soft or Low Voice

Have other people told you that your voice is very soft or that you sound hoarse? If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing, when really you are speaking more softly.

What is normal?
A chest cold or other virus can cause your voice to sound different, but you should go back to sounding the same when you get over your cough or cold.

Masked Face

Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking. If so, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson’s disease.

What is normal?
Some medicines can cause you to have the same type of serious or staring look, but you would go back to the way you were after you stopped the medication.

Dizziness or Fainting

Do you notice that you often feel dizzy when you stand up out of a chair? Feeling dizzy or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD).

What is normal?
Everyone has had a time when they stood up and felt dizzy, but if it happens on a regular basis you should see your doctor.

Stooping or Hunching Over

Are you not standing up as straight as you used to? If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

What is normal?
If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.

What can you do if you have PD?

  • Work with your doctor to create a plan to stay healthy. This might include the following:
    • A referral to a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the brain
    • Care from an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist
    • Meeting with a medical social worker to talk about how Parkinson’s will affect your life
  • Start a regular exercise program to delay further symptoms.
  • Talk with family and friends who can provide you with the support you need.

Spiritual Causes Of Parkinson’s Disease


There has been increasing interest in recent decades in the interactions between disease, religious faith, and spirituality. An issue specific to neurological disorders is to what extent religiousness and spirituality depend upon the integrity of neuronal pathways.


We review recent research that investigates the effects of Parkinson’s disease (PD) on religious faith and spirituality. Few studies have addressed this issue, but these few illustrate contrasting methodological approaches that yield different conclusions.


On the one hand, case‐control studies have reported an apparent decrease in both religious practice and beliefs in PD with some influence of laterality of disease onset. In contrast, qualitative studies investigating religious and general coping in PD emphasize that religious faith remains important to patients.


Methodological pitfalls are found in both approaches. We conclude that there is little evidence to support claims of reduced spirituality and religious faith in PD. We recommend approaches to future studies that could enable a more nuanced understanding of spiritual and religious changes that might occur in PD.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease, religion, cognition

Various studies in recent decades have investigated the neural networks and brain regions activated by different aspects of religious faith or spiritual practice.12345 Besides studies in healthy individuals, an alternative approach is to consider whether neurological deficits arising from stroke, tumor, brain injury, or degenerative disease are accompanied by any change in religiosity or spirituality.6789 For example, using personality assessments before and after neurosurgical removal of brain tumors, Urgesi et al. found that damage to posterior parietal regions was associated with an increase in a measure of spiritual acceptance.7 In traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients, a correlation between right parietal injury and increasing spirituality scores was found,8 and tumors or strokes causing dorsomedial prefrontal cortex lesions were associated with an increase in authoritarian attitudes, including religious authoritarianism.6 There is also a well‐known association between temporal lobe seizures, numinous experiences, and religious conversion.9

Similarly, Parkinson’s disease (PD), a condition with a clearly defined pathology of dopaminergic neurons, has been considered an opportunity to examine the role that dopaminergic networks play in the practice, experience, and maintenance of religious or spiritual beliefs. A handful of case‐control studies, using nondemented PD sufferers and age‐matched healthy and disease controls, have been carried out, using standardized questionnaires101112 or more‐objective implicit methods1314 to measure religiousness and spirituality. However, interpretation of such studies is not straightforward. PD has physical, cognitive, and emotional effects, often compounded by the unpredictability of therapeutic interventions and symptoms.15 To claim a selective effect of the disease on spirituality requires careful control of such confounds. In this review, we scrutinize these studies and suggest overinterpretation of results in claiming a decrease in the importance of religious faith for people with PD.

We draw attention to this because these few studies are at risk of causing a stereotyped view of a reduction in religious faith in PD; indeed, this view is being disseminated in patient information articles, at least in the United States, if not yet in Europe.16 These studies could, however, facilitate a broader discussion of the plausible ways in which PD neuropathology and treatment could effect changes in religious faith, even after controlling for physical and psychosocial effects, while also appreciating the role of religious coping in adapting to life with a chronic disease.17 We also comment on observational studies investigating religious and general coping in Parkinson’s disease, that emphasize the importance of religious coping.181920

Spirituality and religious faith has been shown to be an important resource for those for whom it has relevance, in coping with chronic illness, providing emotional comfort, helping to maintain self‐esteem, and better tolerance of pain and other symptoms, even in more secularized European countries.212223 The process of adaptation subsequent to the upheaval to lifestyle, plans, and expectations for the future can bring about a period of reflection, prompting existential questions about life’s meaning and purpose. This may include an increasing interest or dependence on spirituality and religion.24

Any investigation of religious belief in PD must differentiate between an intrinsic loss of religiosity directly caused by neural degeneration; the contingent reduction in spirituality with the practical, social, and cognitive challenges that the disease may bring; and any reactive response to illness that might increase or decrease religious faith.Potential Mechanisms for an Interaction Between PD and Religion

Some broad assumptions about how neuropathological changes and treatment effects in PD might lead to changes in religiosity can be considered. Recent studies in healthy people point to basal ganglia involvement in maintaining and motivating religious beliefs, as well as rituals such as prayer and meditation.1225 This is unsurprising given cortico‐striatal‐thalamic roles in the general regulation of cognitive and emotional functioning as well as motor control.2627

The importance of dopamine in motivation and goal‐directed behavior is well documented,3031 and PD‐related apathy is associated with blunting of reward circuits in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, striatum, and midbrain.30 Apathy in PD therefore might potentially include loss of motivation for religious practices. Reward pathways have indeed been shown to play a role in prayer and belief: A functional MRI (fMRI) study using healthy subjects compared activation patterns when participants decided whether beliefs of different kinds were true or false; these included religious statements, ethical stances, and basic propositional statements, such as “Most people have 10 toes.”31 Both belief and disbelief showed increased activation, when compared with uncertainty, suggesting a corticostriatal network, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, limbic areas, and caudate, mediating anticipatory, reward‐related decision making.

Does Parkinson Disease Make You Mean

What are Reactive Behaviours?
In the later stages of Parkinson’s disease (PD) some people will develop cognitive changes
that ultimately lead to dementia and some of those people can exhibit reactive behaviours,
usually involving anxiety, anger and aggression. This can include verbal outbursts such as
shouting, swearing, or name-calling. It can also involve physical contact such as scratching,
pushing, kicking, or hitting.
Remember: Parkinson’s disease related dementia does
not develop in every person who has PD.
The purpose of this help sheet is to provide caregivers with information to help understand the
behaviours, signs to watch for and tips for responding to aggressive behaviour. Cognitive
changes may cause reactions and behaviours that take a special effort to manage. Aggressive
behaviour can make communication extremely challenging for everyone involved but there are
strategies that can help.
Determining the Cause
When communication skills have diminished substantially, aggressive behaviour may
be the person’s only way of alerting you to problems they are experiencing.
In many cases, behaviours have meaning – the challenge is to figure out the root cause of the
behaviour so that it can be managed, decreased or diverted. Common causes of aggressive
behaviour can include:
 increased fears regarding loss of control of one’s life and environment
 medication side effects
 missed or incorrect dose of PD medications
 cognitive decline including memory loss
 depression, hallucinations or delusions
 physical discomfort and pain
 other health problems such as infections
 changes in routine
 busy, chaotic surroundings
 fear and discomfort with activities such as personal care
 fear of new people visiting or involved with care
 hunger
 fatigue
Warning Signs and Triggers of the Behaviour
One way of managing behaviours is to develop strategies for preventing the behaviour from
happening in the first place. Behaviours are often associated with triggers, such as those noted
above. If you can determine what the triggers are and control them, you may be able to avoid
the behaviour. Keep a log of when the behaviour occurs and what you think may have been
the trigger.
Learn early warning signs such as:
 onset of fear or frustration
 changes when medication is wearing off or if dosing has been changed
 specific times of the day when problems tend to arise
 specific activities that are troubling
Limit Demands and Choices
Follow a routine and give the person time to complete tasks. Also, keep choices to a
Reduce Distractions in the Environment
Turn off the TV or radio and avoid multi-tasking so you can focus on communicating. Also
examine whether the room is too hot, too cold, or too noisy. Is it crowded or cluttered? These
factors can cause distractions and confusion, making the person feel unsafe. At home, keep
furniture in the same place to avoid confusion.
When Aggressive Behaviour Occurs
 Stay calm.
 Review the PD medication schedule: has a dose been missed? Taken incorrectly?
 Give the person space (about 5 feet) to cool down.
 Ask what is troubling the person so you can identify the cause of the emotion and
behaviour: “I’m angry because I want to walk to the kitchen, but I can’t”.
 Listen to the person. Resist arguing with the person or being confrontational but provide
reassurance: “I know it is really frustrating when you can’t control what is happening.”
 Speak slowly and in a clear, confident, and reassuring voice. Raising your voice might
escalate the situation.
 Provide an explanation: “I noticed you took your medication a short while ago; maybe it
hasn’t kicked in yet. Can I sit with you while it does?”
 Re-direct the person to change the focus away from the issue causing aggression:
“Let’s go for a short walk together.”
 If your safety is threatened, leave the situation and return in a few minutes.

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