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We Must Not Overlook the Links Between Stress and Autoimmune Disease

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Stress and autoimmune disease have strong links, but people often overlook them. We find that connection in three different ways. If you give me a minute of your time, I’ll tell you what they are and where you can go from here. I’m willing to bet that if you have an autoimmune disorder, this won’t come as a surprise to you.

People with chronic severe stress have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.

People exposed to long or short-term extreme stress can develop things like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), adjustment disorders, and acute stress disorder. Researchers found that in the long run, people with these diagnoses were more likely to develop an autoimmune disorder. In particular, people with PTSD were at risk for developing multiple autoimmune disorders.

Sjogren’s patients are more likely to experience significant life stress in the year right before diagnosis.

When comparing people who were just diagnosed with Sjogren’s and no other autoimmune disease (formerly called “primary Sjogren’s syndrome”), researchers discovered that those with the disease had higher stress than a comparison group in the year leading up to diagnosis.

People with a variety of autoimmune diseases often report that stress is a trigger for symptom flares.

Even though there are no large-scale studies confirming this, pay attention in any support group and you will see that many people find stress can bring on a flare.

And then that flare causes more stress. The cycle can go on and on and on.

It’s hard to deny that stress is related to autoimmune diseases. Life is stressful, you can’t avoid that. So what can you do, then?

If you can tame the stress in your body, you can help cut down on those symptom flares. Strategies that help you prevent that buildup of tension, and even reduce it on demand can help bring your baseline tension down and interrupt that vicious cycle of stress-symptoms-stress.

Learn more about Susan’s work at Autoimmune Self-Care.

Originally published: April 7, 2022
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