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A systematic review of anxiety amongst people with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, Volume 10, November 2016, Pages 145 - 168



Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease, which poses significant psychological challenges. The purpose of this systematic review was to identify factors that are associated with anxiety in people with MS (PwMS). It aimed to examine the strength of evidence for factors associated with anxiety symptoms and identify limitations of existing studies.

Method and results

One hundred and thirty one studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review. A narrative synthesis was then conducted. Anxiety was found to be associated with a variety of demographic, physical, psychological, cognitive and social factors. A consistent finding was that anxiety was strongly associated with both high level of disability and low quality of life. A strong association between anxiety and depression was also found.


Implications for these results are discussed and a preliminary model of understanding anxiety in the context of MS is outlined. Given the overlap between anxiety and depression, a transdiagnostic treatment approach is suggested. In light of the shortcomings of extant studies, suggestions for future research are offered.


  • There is a high prevalence of anxiety amongst PwMS.
  • It is associated with high levels of depression and disability.
  • Anxiety should be treated alongside depression to improve quality of life.

Abbreviations: MS - Multiple Sclerosis, PwMS - People with Multiple Sclerosis.

Keywords: Anxiety, Multiple Sclerosis, Systematic review.


Department of Psychological Medicine, Weston Education Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London SE59RJ, United Kingdom

Corresponding author.