A large-scale study recently tracked the influence of stress on the lives of 872 adults and found that how people handle the stress plays a role in how long they live in general. The study found people who maintained a positive attitude even in the face of stressful situations showed fewer signs of chronic inflammation.
“Positive emotions, and how they can help people in the event of stress, have really been overlooked,” Nancy Sin, a postdoctoral fellow at Pennsylvania State University, said to the Daily Mail.
However, there is another component that can be overlooked in the onset and exacerbation of multiple sclerosis: It’s not just outside stress alone that precedes the disease. Most of the MS patients that Maté treated also reported a pattern of repressing their own emotions, ignoring anger or annoyance and constantly prioritizing the health or needs of others over their own well-being.
“I need to know when to withdraw from my helping mode,” Natalie told Maté as she continued to care for her abusive husband. “But I just can’t; if someone needs help, I have to do it.”
By repressing her emotions, the doctor suggests, his patient was subjecting her body to chronic stress, probably without even realizing it.
“Chronic stress is activation of the stress mechanisms over long periods of time when a person is exposed to stressors that cannot be escaped either because she does not recognize them or because she has no control over them,” Maté wrote. “We no longer sense what is happening in our bodies and cannot therefore act in self-preserving ways.”
The same scenario shows up in his other patients: Barbara, a psychotherapist with MS whose symptoms started after she housed a sociopathic man, against better judgment, or Véronique, who kept her symptoms secret because she didn’t want to place an emotional burden on anyone else.