Stress and its Relationship to Autoimmune Conditions

I get a fair amount of people asking me if stress can cause or contribute to autoimmune conditions. The  short answer is yes. This study completed in 2018 found ‘that exposure to a stress-related disorder was significantly associated with increased risk of subsequent autoimmune disease, compared with matched unexposed individuals and with full siblings.’ Each of these comparison groups had over 100,000 people in them and the subjects were followed for over 30 years.

Another study titled: Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease states: ‘the onset of at least 50% of autoimmune disorders has been attributed to “unknown trigger factors”. Physical and psychological stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease, since numerous animal and human studies demonstrated the effect of sundry stressors on immune function. Moreover, many retrospective studies found that a high proportion (up to 80%) of patients reported uncommon emotional stress before disease onset.’

Lastly this study on SLE (Systemic lupus erythematosus) stated: ‘In this large longitudinal study of civilian women, trauma exposure and PTSD were strongly associated with increased risk of incident SLE. We found a nearly 3-fold elevated risk of incident SLE among women with probable PTSD and a >2-fold higher risk of incident SLE among women who had experienced any traumatic event compared with trauma-unexposed women.’

Similar to other chronic health conditions, psychological stress is a precipitating factor and underlying cause of autoimmune conditions. To get better results, stress is something we should screen for and then address in people suffering from these autoimmune conditions.