Is Multiple Sclerosis Caused By Emotional Stress?

The situation deteriorated. Natalie’s husband was combative and aggressive, and it was after particularly nasty encounters that her symptoms were exacerbated. He went on to have an extra-material affair. All the while, Natalie’s disease got worse and worse.

Her experience was in line with many other people who suffer from multiple sclerosis. One of the earlier studies on the role of stress in MS diagnoses was published in the Psychosomatic Medicine journal in 1970. “Many students of this disease have voiced the clinical impression that emotional stress may be somehow implicated in the genesis of MS,” the study said.

Numerous studies followed with similar results. In 1988, a study conducted at the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that MS patients who experienced an extremely stressful life event were 3.7 times more likely to suffer a flare-up from the disease. The following year, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry published a study that found that people were likely to have experienced serious adversity in the six months preceding the first onset of their MS systems. And a review of 20 MS studies from the British Medical Journal found a consistent association between stressful life events and MS exacerbation.

More recently, researchers published a report in European Neurology that found that stressors can be predictors of MS as well. “Significant differences were found between the MS and the control group in their negative emotions and symptoms such as depression, anxiety, obsession, phobia, tense interpersonal relationship and somatization disorder,” the study concluded. “The psychosocial factors are closely associated with MS onset and may play important roles in the development of the disease.”

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