Huntington's Disease Support Information
Changes in Mood


Index~HD Search
Section 1 General Information
Section 2 HD Specific
Section 3 State Info
Section 4 Misc
Hunt-Dis Scholarship Fund
Advanced Stages of Huntington's Disease
Caregivers Handbook
Understanding Changes in Mood


Many people with HD experience depression at some time during the course of their disease. Depression is among the most treatable features of HD, responding well to medication, and in some cases, counselling.

But, because some of the more typical signs of depression can also be attributed to the movement and cognitive disorders of HD, they are often overlooked. For example, a lack of interest, initiative, and concentra-tion may appear to be signs of cognitive decline as well as classic signs of depression. Changes in sleep or appetite, a sad appearance, irritability, and motor slowing could be due to the physical changes brought on by HD or due to possible depression.

Even when people are very physically debilitated in advanced HD, depressive symptoms can respond to antidepressant medication. Here are some signs of depression to watch for carefully. Report these signs of depression to your super-visor or medical and mental health professionals:

  • a lack of initiative and withdrawal
  • a lack of interest and activity
  • irritability
  • a sad facial expression
  • isolation
  • change in sleep pattern, sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty falling asleep, waking up very early in the morning, or waking up several times during the night
  • expressions of guilt
  • expressions of hopelessness and helplessness
  • lack of energy
  • lack of concentration
  • restlessness or inability to sit still
  • a general slowing of activity
  • talking about or attempting suicide.
Any talk about suicide should be treated seriously. Immediately report it to the appropriate person.


There are many reasons for a person with HD to be angry.  A list of those reasons might begin with having HD in one's family, losing a parent to it, and losing the ability to support oneself. The list could include putting one's children at risk for HD, being dependent on others for care, and losing control of one's day-to-day activity. There is, indeed, much reason for anger.

These reasons for frustration ,and anger, coupled with a neurologically based impulse control prob- lem, create a tendency to become angry quickly, giving him a "short fuse". The anger can be extreme and frightening to those who see it. And it may be directed at you!

This is the time to give him space or a "wide berth"; that is, protect yourself and those nearby. Keep well clear of him. Do not attempt to reason, explain or persuade. This may further antagonize him. Try to figure out what triggered this angry outburst so that it can be avoided in the future.

People who watch and wait to intervene learn that people with HD often "cool down" as quickly as they "heat up". When it's over, you need not be surprised if the person apologizes to you, explains that, despite a great effort on his part, he lost control. Accept this most sincere apology.


People with HD certainly have reasons to be depressed, but there may be a physical reason for depression. Depressive moods can be expressed as angry outbursts directed at you.

Keep your perspective, and try to decipher the angry message. Above all, don't take it personally. No matter how it looks, it's probably not intended that way.