Lupus and Stress, What the Research Says

We all know that life can be stressful. Sometimes we get lazy about managing our stress and think it’ll take care of itself. When it comes to lupus, managing stress is incredibly important in order to manage symptoms. Research shows that stress can worsen lupus symptoms and trigger flares.

Stress relates to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Under stress, the body secretes hormones like cortisol to trigger the fight or flight response. In instances of prolonged stress, the human body can be severely affected. Stress weakens the immune system and increases the risk of developing psychological conditions like depression and anxiety disorder. 

According to the Lupus Foundation of America and the Center of Disease Control (CDC), emotional stress may act as a trigger to set off lupus or bring on a flare. While stress does not directly cause lupus, environmental factors like stress play a role in the onset of the illness for individuals who are already predisposed. 

According to a study published in BMC Psychiatry, depression and anxiety were prevalent in adults with lupus SLE. These findings suggest that physicians should screen patients for depression and anxiety. Moreover, they indicate that both patients and physicians should have a well rounded approach when it comes to disease management. 

Managing stress may be easier said than done. According to a research study on lupus and stress, researchers found that lupus patients undergoing cognitive behavioral activity (CBT) suffered from less psychological disorders and were better able to manage stress than control participants. The CBT patients also scored higher on quality of life (QOL) surveys than non-therapy control participants. 

Therapy, especially CBT, is one way to manage lupus and stress. Other techniques for managing stress can include regular exercise, a healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption, and no smoking. According to an illness recovery coach and Sanguine Patient Ambassador, Kaley Zeitouni, a daily meditation practice has also been proven to help manage stress for those with chronic illness. Read her previous blog on managing stress where she includes a free and easy meditation for beginners. 


By Neelem Sheikh

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