Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, progressive neurological disorder that is associated with demyelination of the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The damage of the nerve sheaths leads to symptomatology. It mostly affects individuals in their 20s-50s and is 2-3 times more common in females than in males. It is more common in individuals who live farther away from the equator. MS has also shown genetic predisposition and increases the risk of disease in first degree relatives.
Can Anxiety Cause MS?
Anxiety is a feeling and state of mind in which a person tends to stress and worry about a situation that is beyond their control. Although, small amount of anxiety is normal for every person dealing with the daily stresses of life, but when anxiety starts affecting a person’s health, it becomes a problem. Anxiety may also be related to other psychological problems, such as depression and may also affect a person’s sleep cycle, indirectly causing fatigue when a person is not well rested.
Although, everyone has anxiety to some degree, but how well one can cope with anxiety defines their level of anxiety. The relationship between anxiety and MS is complex, as anxiety can act as a trigger for MS as well as MS can lead to anxiety. Although, anxiety does not cause MS, it merely acts as a precipitating factor and can make the symptoms of MS worse leading to aggravation of MS symptoms.
As MS is a chronic and debilitating disease that affects the quality of life of a person with no definitive treatment; the affected individual starts worrying about his physical health and taking extra tension about his disease. Therefore, this unwarranted tension leads to depression. Anxiety is also related to panic attacks and MS patients may experience it more commonly due to abnormal conduction of nerve impulses.
Therefore, MS patients are advised to limit their anxiety. This can be done with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), breathing techniques, exercises, meditation and staying busy and active to keep oneself distracted and avoid over thinking about the disease.
All these activities motivate a person and help avoid negative thoughts. It is also a good idea to stay social and keep in contact with people who motivate and support you. Talking to people also acts as a good stress reliever and provides calm and peace. Talking to other people going through the same experience helps bring more affirmation and positivity, which is very important in dealing and living with multiple sclerosis.
Causes Of MS
The exact cause of MS is unknown. It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the auto-antibodies destroy the myelin sheath of nerves. This leads to inflammation and plaques and lesions that help diagnose the disease on an MRI. The inflammation and lesions on nerve sheaths cause disruption in the conduction of impulses. The inflamed lesions lead to scarring of myelin sheath, known as sclerosis. As they occur in various portions of the nerves throughout the body, they are known as multiple sclerosis.
The exact cause of antibodies attacking the nerve sheath is unknown and is considered as a result of combination of various triggering factors. These include:
Genes. Although, it is not a directly inherited disease, first degree relatives are more likely and at a greater risk than normal population to get the disease (the risk increases to about 2-5%)
Female. MS is 2-3 times more common in females than in males and the reason for this is also unknown
Smoking. The chance of MS increases about two fold in individuals who smoke compared to those who do not smoke
Lack Of Sunlight. MS is more commonly seen in people who live away from equator and this could directly correspond to lack of sunlight in individuals living farther from equator
Infections. It is postulated that Epstein Barr virus may be responsible for triggering auto-antibodies leading to MS.
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