Stress Awareness Month. Stress and Chronic Illness Management.

Stress Awareness Month

The relationship between stress and illness is not one that is fully understood, as the susceptibility to stress differs from one individual to another. For some, minor incidents will elicit severe emotional reactions, while others will exhibit calm demeanors in times of crisis.

There is also the fact that not all stress has adverse effects. Researchers have found that short-term stress helps boost the immune system; however, chronic stress can have a significant adverse impact which could result in illness.

As we prepare to celebrate Stress Awareness Month, we know physicians are concerned about the level of stress you may be experiencing since it could impact your susceptibility to illness and affect disease management.

What is Stress and How It May Affect You

Stress is the process in which environmental demands strain an organism’s adaptive capacity resulting in both psychological demands as well as biological changes that could place an individual at higher risk for illness.

Not all stress is harmful. Stress is positive when it forces us to adapt and thus, to increase the strength of our adaptation mechanisms. However, when stress levels exceed the individual’s ability to cope, fatigued body systems can cause behavioral or physical problems. This is when stress turns into a severe problem.

From a patient perspective, a chronic disease diagnosis such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, can quickly cause significant stress levels. Therefore, the start of their journey does not only involve the physical effects of the illness and their treatment options, but also includes an emotional journey in how to cope with the disease.

A primary concern about stress is its effects on the immune system and the potential complications it could have on an existing condition. For this reason, the support provided by physicians and nurses as well as friends and family is a crucial component of a patient’s treatment plan. The better a person can cope with their illness the more successful their treatment course may be.

Another concern is depression. Given the severity of disease symptoms and complicated treatment plans, this condition may go undiagnosed. In situations where a patient receives treatment at an outpatient facility, the disruption in the doctor-patient relationship may lead to increases in the risk of depression.

what is stress anxiety depression

Stress Awareness for Illness Prevention

Stress may be linked to several illnesses including:

Asthma and Allergies

External and internal factors play a part in asthma attacks and allergic reactions. Data from a study conducted by students at the University of Wisconsin suggest that stress associated with final examinations may enhance asthma severity.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

Peptic ulcers and ulcerative colitis can be significantly influenced by stress. Excessive stomach acid is the primary cause of ulcers. Studies of patients with gastric fistulas show that certain emotional states can increase or decrease stomach acidity. For example, anger and hostility increase stomach acidity, while depression and withdrawal were found to reduce it.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Through an analysis of sixteen different studies published in Arthritis Research & Therapy, researchers observed evidence to build a connection between stress and the risk of developing RA.

The analysis revealed that:

  • Stress tends to make RA symptoms worse.
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a higher risk of developing RA and other autoimmune diseases.
  • People who have experienced childhood trauma were more likely to have rheumatic diseases.
  • Stressful events often precede the onset of RA.
  • Higher stress is associated with a less positive outlook of RA.
  • Individuals with RA may be more sensitive to specific sources of stress.

Helping Patients Cope with Stress

Stress and worry are frequently the cause of aggravated patient symptoms.

Physicians can significantly help their patients cope with the stress associated with a chronic disease diagnosis by creating stress awareness campaigns:

  • Explaining the stress symptom cycle
  • Offering supportive reassurance
  • Helping them identify and reduce stressors where possible
  • Aiding their personal development to bring the patients’ level of functioning and adjustment up to match his stresses.

While every patient is different, and how they react to stressors significantly varies, these stress management techniques offered by the CDC can help most individuals.

Educate your patients

Teach them to take care of themselves by improving their diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and finding fun relaxing activities to give themselves a break from time to time.

Encourage them to Talk

Talking to others about their ordeal can significantly reduce stress levels, help them build a support group that involves friends, family, counselors, pastor, and even yourself and your nursing staff.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

Counsel your patients to avoid the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with disease management.

Altus Infusion

As a leader in biologic management solutions, Altus Infusion helps physicians provide in-office biologic treatments in their existing practice, providing their patients an opportunity to receive treatment in a convenient, supportive and familiar environment.


The information provided in this blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, or provide any specific professional medical advice. Altus Infusion does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the information published in its blog and cannot be held responsible for its content or the reliance on any such information.

You should always consult with and rely on the medical advice of your physician(s).

At Altus Infusion, we care about the wellbeing of all patients, which is why we are dedicated to helping raise awareness of the different ways we can improve our health and live longer happier lives.

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Disclaimer:  The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. Any content regarding symptoms and possible treatment of illnesses is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Altus Infusion does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the information published in its blog and will not be held responsible for the content of any blog publication.

You should always consult your primary care physician for specific medical advice.

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