Forum

MS & Stress

Hi all. Can anyone confirm that stress worsens (if only temporarily) MS symptoms? If so, does anyone now the scientific reason for this? Many thanks as always Mandy

Hi, yes that happens to me too. I think the professionals call it “health anxiety”. I’m a very laid back person normally but find i don’t handle stress well these days and it does make my symptoms worse. x

Hi Mandy, Many people find it so, but the reasons are poorly understood - if at all. I suppose it’s a very difficult thing to scientifically test, because people do not have a uniform reaction to stress anyway. Although certain things, like bereavement, divorce, losing a job, moving house are commonly agreed to be stressful for almost everyone, people vary hugely in their response to more everyday things. Some people might find being stuck in traffic stressful, for example - others might not. So even if you got subjects to keep detailed diaries of exactly what they were doing, and how bad their symptoms were, you wouldn’t be able to tell for sure how stressed they were, or that Person A’s definition of “stress” was the same as Person B’s. It would also be difficult to measure in a scientific way just how much their symptoms varied, because things like pain, numbness and tingling are difficult to measure at the best of times, so you’d have to rely on self-reports. An experiment that relied entirely on how stressed participants said they were, and how they rated their symptoms, probably wouldn’t be a scientific standard of proof! Basically, if you think stress makes you worse, you’re almost certainly right (I know it does for me), but I don’t think medical science has found the cause. Tina x

P.S. Bunny, I don’t think this is the same as “health anxiety”. That would be disproportionate or irrational anxiety ABOUT one’s health. Also known as hypochondria. For example, obsessing that a simple headache was a brain tumour. I expect a lot of illnesses and conditions are made worse by stress - MS isn’t the only one. But that’s not “health anxiety”, as the person isn’t preoccupied with unlikely or imaginary illnesses - they do have a real one. Tina

Stress makes me worse, a recent Ofsted visit sent my stress levels skyward and I relapsed within 48 hours of the call - that was in April and I haven’t got back to how I was yet.

Hard to quantify, but my new strategy is stress avoidance as far as possible for the good of my health!