I get the feeling MS is triggered by stress and anxiety


I definately get the feeling MS is triggered by stress and anxiety and may be its to do with a prolonged period of stress/anxiety leading to changes in hormones/chemicals in the brain. I recently read a period of hypertension for as little as 2 days can cause small strokes. I know the EBV virus has something to do with MS. Everyone or 99% of MSers have had glandular fever, but not everyone who has had glandular fever gets MS.

Before I became ill with my CIS (servere first MS attack) I was very stressed and anxious, with my housing situation. I was well then I returned to my student university accomodation after Christmas. I was anxious that one particular housemate would keep me awake at night as she was not working or a student and would go to bed after 4am. Her bedroom was below mine I could hear up at night, then when i heard her turn the lights out I got this relief and could get some sleep. This concerned me as I would be getting up at 6am to go to 9am lectures. I became very anxious and stressed and got dizziness then double vision which progressed to a 6th nerve palsy. I then went numb between my legs, had bladder problems for 2 days, then a stinging back, constipation the list went on. All through these symptoms I was in a hyper-anxious state.

My time line was:

4 days after returning to the student house I became unwell with dizziness then the symptoms manifested (as mentioned above). It was only until my mum travelled 150 miles to rescue me and I went to stay with my parents was I able begin to recover and get some sleep. I didn’t know really anthing about MS before this severe attack. I just wondered if anone else had experienced something causing them stress leading to their first MS attack?

I sounds as though you are having a horrid time and it certainly sounds as though stress and anxiety are making your life a misery at the moment.

Is MS caused by stress and anxiety? Some people feel that it can play a part in the perfect storm of bad luck that leaves a person vulnerable to MS (genetic susceptibility, environmental factors of all sorts, maybe an infective agent at work, etc etc). But it isn’t the whole story, that’s for sure. Otherwise, everyone in the world would have MS, because stress and anxiety are just part of life - everyone’s life.

Clearly you have a lot to worry about at the moment with your neurological troubles (sorry, I am not sure whether you have an MS dx or not, but clearly there is neurological stuff going on and that is bound to be a worry). It seems to me that the anxious state you are in might be making everything feel worse. It is natural that your body’s stress response is on high alert at the moment, but please try not to add two and two and make five (for instance, thinking that your inconsiderate housemate might have caused your symptoms - correlation is not causation!) I wonder whether you have felt able to talk to the GP about how you are feeling in yourself and asked about getting some help with the anxiety? If not, that is something you might like to consider. A few sessions with a counsellor might be an idea. Many GP’s surgeries have people they recommend. A person can get a bit stuck, and talking things through with a professional listener can be a real help.

Good luck with it all.


Hi Alison, thanks . I was diagnosed with RRMS last Wed. I have twitching still going on (one twitch at a time), not spasms. I was twiching extensively during the servere attack. I also now have occasional muscle cramp in my left calf and today after going to the toilet my legs and arms muscles were aching badly for about 20 mins, and felt like I was going in for the flu and had to go to bed.

My MS nurse is refering me for a 2nd neurologist opinion as she thinks my twiching doesn’t sound right. I also have bowel problems and i’ve only just been diagnosed. I’m not in the hyper hyper-anxious state anymore, that fizzled out in September. I am due for cbt counselling in a few weeks. I feel alot less anxious now, even with my diagnosis. I am living on my own now, in a flat and its a releif to have time to myself. xx

Hi, when I first presented with MS like symptoms, but tests showed no proof, I did ask if mental anguish could be the cause of my problems. i asked more than 1 neuro this question.

I did have a huge amount of stress at work, which caused severe hair loss, but was always told no.

I know we can feel exhausted and make mistakes and be clumsy when we are under pressure, but I don`t think it has caused my disability.


I think my stress may have resulted in some hypertension. I’ve always been a bit on the high side for blood pressure. Who knows with MS though and i’m looking forward to things getting a bit better.

Yes yes YES, I definitely think stress and anxiety can cause MS. My first attack (Transverse Myelitis) happened when I was seriously ill with generalised anxiety disorder and depression. I was so ill I was literally screaming the house down with panic attacks. I can’t help feeling that my nervous system just broke down and I had my first MS attack. I too asked the neuro if this was relevant and he brushed it off. I never had any neurological symptoms until this first attack, it came out of the blue. My huge regret is coming off my anti depressants as if I had stayed on them the likelihood is that I wouldn’t have had the mental breakdown that I had and may possibly have avoided this fate. Major regret. That said, it could be total coincidence but I’m sceptical. Lisa xx

Lisa, that is so interesting. It would be interesting to run a survey on peoples first MS attack and their state of anxiety/ recent history of stress and anxiety.

I also get the feeling my nervous sytsem broke down with the panic attacks and anxiety I was suffering from. I had such a rubbish year leading up until my first MS attack. I was in an abusive relationship which caused me alot of anxiety. This was the first time I ever experienced such bad anxiety. So I moved away 150 miles to go to university, basically to get away from the abusive guy and move on in life. Then I become anxious about my housing situation, then bingo I get my first MS attack. I’ve recently read that MS is fairly common in USA war veterans suffering from PTSD. It all seems such a coincidence like you said but I can be sceptical too.

i think it has a lot to do with it.

i can tell about myself - i was hospitalized in order get steroid treatment. it was a shocker, suddenly being sent to a hospital and i’m not even DX with ms yet, I’ve never experienced hospital before, a week long stay, plus having to get LP done there - i’m 100% sure that all of this stress as made my situation worse - because although i’m post treatment i’m feeling a lot worse than before.

basically what i’m saying is - it is impossible that I’ve had a relapse in a middle of treating a relapse with steroids. i think that all of the stress and anxiety that i’ve went through in that period was just too much and that has made my body get into a worse shape.

now i understand how important it is to take care of our mental balance. it can make a lot more damage than we think.

Hi Gabspups, That sounds pretty awful what you went tthrough. You are right about mental balance, I’m trying my hardest to not get too stressed and anxious over my recent diagnosis.

A neighbour’s friend has MS and her MS has not effected her for 20 years. i get the feeling i won’t be that lucky but its always good to think of the best case scenario now in the situation I am in.

I think i must have had a physcological problem with my MS attack. If anyone asked me what they thought would be my diagnosis I would say stroke as I was so stressed and anxious. It felt like the stress, anxiety attacks and lack of sleep was triggering the demylination and the only way to stop the demylination was to leave (be rescued from) the student shared house. I was (and still am) convinved that if I stayed in that house I wouldn’t have recovered so well and deteriorated badly (possibly died if I stayed living their?) I have since read that a sixth nerve palsy in MS (causing double vision) doesn’t usually cause a change in mentality. I’ve always thought who would feel normal with a swelling on the brain?

Hi I believe stress can trigger relapses with ms. I would think that the underlying condition is there but stress causes flair ups which often leads to dx. After my symptoms started, I developed anxiety worried about what was happening. This led to dx after 2 years I don’t think stress caused the ms but do think it triggered what was there all along. I now manage my stress and undoubtably feel worse at times when under pressure. Take care of yourself Neil

I have noted first hand, a correlation between stress and MS flare ups, even prior to diagnosis. Initial symptoms for me were in the form of a hot foot and leg. Harmless and usually only after some vigorous exercise. Easy to dismiss as a consequence of a good workout i had thought.

However, when combined with a background of mental stress (for eg. work pressures one year ago = constant hot leg for over 2 weeks; this year moving house = numb limbs and half trunk for 2 months) symptoms are seemingly proportionally enhanced.

For me this is troubling as i had always thought stress was something i managed well. The onset of MS attacks shows that i was perhaps doing well to simply bury the sense of stress, as opposed to actively managing it?

Of course everyone has some level of stress, but not everyone has MS. Tragically for my family, i am not the first to have this challenging condition. And of course one of the cruelest jokes in nature, is that a diagnosis of a stress mediated condition can in itself, help to create even more stress.

I’ve had a few relapses which I am sure were triggered by stress. I’ve had to become aware of my stress and learn to take it easy. I find going out for a walk helps with my stress.

I had the dentist the other day for a check up but felt a bit anxious, I was never any good at going to the dentist. The walk there and back helped. I find I feel better and more relaxed when I have eaten a meal too.

I have noticed that my Lhermittes chills out with a full belly.