There’s a significant link between stress disorders and people living with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
A new study has found an association between stress-related conditions such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The recent study out of the University of Iceland has corroborated what other studies — like one done in 2017 — have found about autoimmune diseases.
In all the research, researchers have concluded that these diseases can be closely associated with PTSD and similar conditions.
In fact, Healthline reported on the link between RA and PTSD in 2016.
In 2015, we covered the link between RA and 9/11 first responders. The link between RA and stress isn’t a new one, but it’s one that researchers are still investigating.
What the study uncovered
Dr. Huan Song led the new study.
Song and her team posed the question of whether or not psychiatric reactions induced by traumas or other major life stressors were associated with the subsequent risk of autoimmune disease.
They concluded that stress-related disorders were shown to have a significantly increased risk of carrying with them subsequent autoimmune disease.
The study was conducted to further investigate why and how psychiatric reactions to varying levels of life stressors can result in immune system dysfunction.
The research team also wanted to clarify if those reactions actually contributed to the risk of autoimmune disease.
Swedish registries were used for this study. It included more than 106,000 participants with stress-related disorders, nearly 127,000 siblings, and more than 1 million individuals with no exposure to a stress-related clinical disorder.
The study looked at data over a span of 32 years. The median age of a stress-related disorder diagnosis was 41.
Upon its conclusion, this retroactive investigation found that exposure to a stress-related disorder was indeed significantly associated with the increased risk of developing a subsequent autoimmune disease.
This was compared both with individuals without a stress disorder as well as with siblings of study participants.
Still wondering why
At this time, researchers can’t pinpoint the methodology behind the underlying mechanism. Further studies are needed to better understand this aspect of the findings.
But the link between RA and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD remains.
In fact, one study showed that women with PTSD are more likely to develop RA than those who don’t live with PTSD. Smoking was found to increase this risk.
Conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD can also lessen chances of RA remission. The Arthritis Foundation suggests that people with RA find ways to manage stress and anxiety to try to mitigate this risk.
The foundation notes psychotherapy, acupuncture, yoga, medication, massage, a healthful diet, exercise and physical activity, visualization, and meditation may all help.
They also urge people to speak with their doctor if they’re experiencing symptoms of RA and stress-related conditions.