How Does Stress Impact On Your Multiple Sclerosis
It is almost certain that everybody who has MS is aware of the need to avoid stress. I say that because the people I have spoken with ARE well aware of this situation. The stress impact on MS can be insurmountable.
I was inspired to write this article after reading a recent post by a fellow MS sufferer where, it was clear to me that, stress impact was having a majorly negative impact on her life. In Sensations go Deep, Pamela Sutherland was going through a bad patch in her life where many things were coming to a head and getting the better of her.
It is a scenario I am only too familiar with. Only this morning, my wife came bursting into my office demanding that I get this bloody paperwork filed and tidy this bloody office?. OK, my office is a little untidy and my filing system is not the most advanced I have ever seen, but I know where everything is, generally.
It is the mundane problems that can often, become amplified out of all proportions to, cause stress. On a recent trip to the urology clinic which has nothing, allegedly, to do with MS I found myself greatly affected by the stress of the examination. I am not normally affected or stressed, at least not knowingly, by hospital visits and intimate examinations. But this experience proved me wrong, once again.
How Can I Manage Stress With Multiple Sclerosis
Stressful events and experiences are a part of life and its impossible to completely avoid them. Its not about eliminating stress, but about finding ways to cope.
Here are some stress management strategies to try:
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment instead of getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future. To start, you can take a few moments to sit quietly and focus on your breath. Try to become more aware of your environment: the scent, sight, sound, and feel of your surroundings.
- Deep breathing. Deep breathing can help you manage some of the physical effects of stress. When youre focused on your breath, theres no room for other thoughts. To do this, try breathing in slowly through your nose. Exhale even more slowly through pursed lips.
- Social connection. Maintaining strong social relationships is good for your healthTrusted Source. Feeling well-supported can improve your physical and emotional well-being. Sharing your experiences can help you feel less alone and improve your ability to cope. Make time to connect with friends and family or find ways to get involved in your community.
- Counseling. A therapist is specially trained to provide mental health support. They can help you cope with difficult situations that are contributing to stress. You can search for a therapist who also has experience working with people who have chronic conditions like MS.
How Ms Is Linked To Anxiety
Multiple sclerosis can trigger anxiety within the brain itself. But the actual reason that MS tends to do this is simply because the disease is scary, which may lead to problematic thinking patterns and negative emotions. Many of those with MS have frightening symptoms and recurrent, relapsing, progressively worse MS.
That’s something very important to keep in mind. Developing anxiety is normal with MS simply because MS is a frightening disease. Anxiety is a response to danger, and MS makes that anxiety warranted, which makes it harder to control.
However, MS can also cause anxiety and depression as a result of the illness itself. MS is linked to inflammation in various parts of the brain, and when the brain experiences damage and stress, it’s not uncommon for a person to experience anxiety. Depending on where the inflammation occurs, it may also provoke panic attacks as well.
In addition, the symptoms of MS can be triggers for those that already have anxiety. Panic disorder is a pertinent example. Many people with panic disorder have panic attacks as result of changes in their body’s sensations, and MS can cause changes in sensations that trigger panic attacks. While MS isn’t technically causing the panic attacks directly, it’s creating an environment that makes them far more likely.
All of these are the reasons that anxiety is a common condition for those with MS.
Also Check: How To Reduce Employee Stress
The Role Of Stress In Ms
OS markers can be used to determine the progression of MS.
These markers are also showing success as predictors of high disability in MS, helping direct the course of treatments recommended by medical professionals.
Chronic inflammation causes damage to the central nervous system and is attributed to MS. By , researchers believe they have the ability to slow down disease progression.
Understanding the role of OS in MS appears to be vital.
Multiple sclerosis is generally divided into three types: Relapsing-remitting , secondary progressive , and primary progressive .
The recent studies are showing that inflammation is the key instigator for relapses in RRMS, while permanent nerve damage is the root of PPMS and SPMS.
Changes To Bladder And Bowel Function With Ms
Issues with bladder and bowel function can be a common problem for people with MS at some stage in their life. These issues may be related to other conditions, so it is important to report any changes, so the right assessments can be made.
Issues with bladder and bowel function may include:
- Incontinence an accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel . It is a widespread condition affecting many Australians, so you should not feel alone.
- Bladder dysfunction symptoms including greater or less frequency of passing of urine, urgency, incontinence, urinary tract infections and the need to urinate frequently overnight.
- Bowel issues including severe constipation, faecal incontinence and diarrhoea.
With the right advice, you can manage these symptoms and prevent complications or associated illnesses.
You can also make small changes that could make a big difference, including:
Read Also: How Do You Relieve Stress Headaches
Sensory Symptoms And Ms
Changes in sensations such as numbness, pins and needles and tingling are common MS symptoms, related to damage to nerve covering in certain areas. These sensations can occur anywhere on the body such as the arms, legs and face. They can be mild or could interfere with your ability to use the affected part of your body, such as difficulty in writing with a pen.
The new onset of sensory symptoms may be associated with a relapse and should be reported to your MS healthcare team.
What Can I Do About Stress
The cornerstone of stress is a loss of control. If you feel that life just keeps coming at you and you have no control over what is happening thats when the stress level goes up. If youre falling behind at your job or your studies, you have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, make dinner and tidy up the house because your friends are coming over tonight, all on a day when your MS fatigue is making it hard to think No wonder you feel overwhelmed sometimes and find it hard to cope.
So how can you regain control, faced as you are with an illness that is the definition of uncertainty and loss of control? How do you reclaim those positive experiences thatll make everything easier?
What can give a big boost are the people around you your spouse or partner, family members, friends and colleagues. Theyre your support system and its important to feel that theyre listening to your worries and concerns, and theyre in your corner helping you in your fight . It can be hard to ask for help we all like to think were self-sufficient and can get the job done by ourselves. But each small act can make a big difference: when your husband cleans the house, your sister watches the kids while you take a nap, your neighbour drives you to the store to get groceries.
Techniques such as relaxation breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises have also been shown to be effective in reducing stress .
Don’t Miss: How To Combat Stress Hormones
Heat Sensitivity And Ms
People living with multiple sclerosis often experience a reaction to heat and a build-up of symptoms as a result. Depending on your situation, you may notice an increase in fatigue, blurred vision, loss of balance or a flare up of problems with concentration, memory or other cognitive symptoms particularly on a hot day, during exercise or in an overheated space. The effects of heat dont cause permanent damage to nerves and you should feel better once cool.
You might also experience heat sensitivity with colds, flu or other infections that cause a rise in body temperature. Remember that symptoms subside as your body temperature decreases, so its good to find ways to keep cool.
Can Stress Cause Ms
People with MS often describe their personal experiences on forums and you will find that stress and MS is a relationship that comes up time and time again, with many seeing the link within their own lives. Some people with MS feel that their MS was triggered as a direct result of a specific trauma or going through an exceptionally stressful period of time.
But studies which have investigated whether stress causes MS have been mixed. Although the person with MS knows from their experience that their MS symptoms started after or alongside a stressful period of time, there is no direct evidence that stress causes MS although it might trigger it. However, the connection between long periods of stress and MS exacerbation within people who already have an MS diagnosis has been realised through scientific research and studies. Stress management has also been seen to slow down new areas of MS lesions on an MRI scan.
Don’t Miss: Can I Sue My Job For Stress
How Do You Diagnose Cognitive Problems
Ask your doctor to check your cognition each year. You should also tell them if you notice any cognitive changes.
If the doctor sees a change or if youre struggling with work or school, youll need a detailed cognitive evaluation from a neuropsychologist. These are doctors who specialize in behavioral changes caused by disease or trauma. You might also see a speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist for testing.
Its important that these health care professionals have experience working with people with MS. This helps them choose the right tests and interpret them.
The evaluation includes a variety of tests. They check different parts of your cognitive function, like your processing speed, memory, problem-solving, and more. The whole process can take several hours.
Study: Stress Bad For Ms
Multiple Sclerosis Exacerbations Linked to Stress
Despite MS patients’ widely held belief that stressful events bring on sudden worsening of symptoms, the idea has been controversial among doctors. But a look at published research shows that in this case, the patients know best.
David C. Mohr, PhD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues looked at every major published study of MS and stress. Their analysis shows that stressful events worsen MS at least as much, if not more, than an effective MS drug — beta interferon — makes it better.
“The negative effects of stress on exacerbation of multiple sclerosis are at least as great as the positive effects of a class of drugs widely considered to produce clinically meaningful results,” Mohr and colleagues write in the March 20 issue of the British Medical Journal.
MS is a disease of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves that can cause problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, sensation, and mental functions. The cause is unknown. Most people with the disease suffer the relapsing form. This means that they are stable for what may be a long time — then, they get a barrage of symptoms that subside over the following weeks or month. Very often, these “exacerbations” leave long-lasting impairment in their wake.
British Medical Journal
Don’t Miss: Can Stress Cause Liver Damage
Understanding Your Unique Stressors
In addition to the ordinary stress of life, people with MS have a unique set of stressors to manage. Making treatment decisions, dealing with the unpredictable nature of the disease, navigating symptoms at work, and explaining your condition to others isn’t easy. Becoming aware of your key stressors is important in order to effectively manage them.
How Can I Tell If I Have Stress
Medically speaking, stress causes changes in your blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. You may not notice these changes yourself. In the short-term, these responses can improve your physical and mental performance to cope with immediate crises – the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, left unchecked, excessive stress can have negative effects on physical and emotional health, including a direct effect on levels of fatigue.
Everybody reacts differently to stress, but there are common symptoms:
- Physical – increased levels of sweating, muscle tightness, regular headaches, constipation or diarrhoea.
- Emotional – irritability, reduced concentration, feeling overwhelmed, problems making decisions, decreased confidence, low mood.
- Behavioural – difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, loss of libido, increased drinking or smoking and reduced willingness to socialise.
Don’t Miss: How To Stop Stress Headaches
How To Stop Ms Anxiety
While you should talk to your doctor about ways to control your own personal multiple sclerosis anxiety, it’s not a bad idea to consider treating it like its own condition. Remember, most anxiety is caused by fear as a result of the disorder , not literally by the lesions in the brain . Furthermore, even when MS causes anxiety directly, your own coping ability can still contain that anxiety so that it doesn’t affect you as much.
Experts recommend the following to deal with MS-related anxiety:
- Exercise Talk to your doctor about exercising. Exercise is an east and natural way to reduce anxiety. It is a great natural antidepressant and tool for reducing your anxiety, especially when used in combination with other treatment approaches.
- Learn Breathing Techniques There are several breathing techniques that can also be useful for controlling anxiety. Deep breathing appears to be a very effective relaxation strategy, and the breathing techniques associated with yoga also seem to contribute to reduced anxiety and stress.
- Stay Busy/Active Inactivity and a lack of mental stimulation may trigger or worsen anxiety as well as make it more likely that you’re focusing too much on your disease. Keep yourself busy with projects and tasks so that you’re not overwhelmed by the illness.
Was this article helpful?
Behavioral Interventions In Chronic Disease
Patients dealing with chronic, life-threatening diseases must often confront daily stressors that can threaten to undermine even the most resilient coping strategies and overwhelm the most abundant interpersonal resources. Psychosocial interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral stress management , have a positive effect on the quality of life of patients with chronic disease . Such interventions decrease perceived stress and negative mood , improve perceived social support, facilitate problem-focused coping, and change cognitive appraisals, as well as decrease SNS arousal and the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Psychosocial interventions also appear to help chronic pain patients reduce their distress and perceived pain as well as increase their physical activity and ability to return to work . These psychosocial interventions can also decrease patients overuse of medications and utilization of the health care system. There is also some evidence that psychosocial interventions may have a favorable influence on disease progression .
Recommended Reading: How Can Stress Affect Your Pregnancy
Plenty Of Reasons To Stress
So, I get stressed out more easily now. Lets face it though, just having MS is enough to be stressed about right? There is no cure and its wildly unpredictable. We all go to bed each night knowing that we might wake up and be unable to walk or have some other issue that was completely non-existent the day before. It can definitely cause some sleepless nights. Not only worrying about what condition well wake up in, but also if well be able to support ourselves, keep our loved ones, and even have health insurance.
Diagnosing And Treating Mood Changes
If you, your friends, or family notices a shift in mood, talk to your doctor. Also ask them to check your mood at least once a year.
Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker. They may prescribe medication, such as antidepressants for depression or anxiety. Your health care team will follow you closely to make sure the medicine is working.
Your doctor may also recommend talk therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy. That helps you notice negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Joining a support group may also ease stress and help you feel less alone.
Setting a self-care routine can also help. When your mood dips, you can do things that help you feel nourished, like taking a bubble bath, listening to music, or having a date night.
Read Also: What Happens When You Get Stressed
Worried About Ms 4 Triggers That Can Cause Flares
Periods of relapse and remission are common with the chronic disease multiple sclerosis. Find out about factors that might trigger MS symptoms.
For Americans living with multiple sclerosis , the majority are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, or when the symptoms ebb and flow. Although the flares of numbness, pain, dizziness, and imbalance can be unpredictable, there are certain triggers that cause the flare ups for many people.
“When a new neurological symptom develops in multiple sclerosis, one that isnt related to an infection, and lasts for more than 24 hours, it is considered to be an MS relapse,” explains Devon Conway, MD, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic. While a relapse that causes serious symptoms usually needs to be treated, old symptoms that reappear are not as serious and often go away without needing treatment.
RELATED: 250+ Ways to Manage MS From Patients, Professionals, and Caregivers