Can stress cause multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms?

Life can be stressful. Add the diagnosis of a chronic, unpredictable disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), and the stress can become overwhelming. Many people believe a link exists between stress and MS. While this link has yet to be scientifically proven or fully understood, an exacerbation during a period of severe stress is hardly rare. However, most people fail to care for themselves properly while experiencing severe stress. They may not eat well or get enough rest. They may abandon their usual fitness routine and turn to alcohol or cigarettes to alleviate their stress. All of these behaviors could contribute to the worsening of symptoms.

I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for ten years and I can honestly say that most, if not all, of my exacerbations have been linked to a stressful time in my life. We all know that stress that is not under control can interfere with any person’s life. If you are living with MS, it is imperative that you manage your stress. Exercise, and there are all different types, is a key component in actively creating a functional, stress-free life.


Stress plays a key role in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. In this WisePatient video, integrative neurologist Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary describes the impact of the stress hormone cortisol on MS.
Charles R. Smith, MD
Even if stress doesn't have a direct affect on MS, taking steps to reduce stress can improve qualty of life, says neurologist Charles Smith, MD. In this video, he explains why maintaining a positive attitude can improve your health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.