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  • Jessica Frizzell, PA-C

Is Your Mental Health Struggling Due To An Autoimmune Disease?

Updated: Jun 22




Living with an autoimmune disease is not for the faint of heart. It comes with stress and difficulties, heartache and pain, challenges and interruptions.


Because of this, supporting your mental health is a critical component to managing your autoimmune disease.


Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Poor mental health impacts the body’s ability to function properly, and therefore, can lead to poor physical health.


When you work toward improving your mental health, you are actually taking steps to better manage your autoimmune disease as well. It’s a win-win situation.


A Mental Health Checklist


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so what better time to take a minute and reflect on the current status of your mental health!


To get you thinking, consider the following questions:


  • How often do you find yourself feeling worried, stressed, anxious, or nervous?

  • Do you feel overly tired, abnormally fatigued, or out of energy?

  • Are you able to concentrate, focus, and make decisions?

  • Do you regularly feel sad, down, depressed, or blue?

  • Are you easily angered or frustrated?

  • Do you participate in your favorite hobbies or activities?

  • Are you experiencing unusual physical discomfort, such as strange aches and pains?

  • Do you enjoy the company of others and look for social opportunities?

  • Do you feel alone, isolated, or hopeless?

  • How is your appetite and what are your eating habits?

  • What are your sleep patterns and how long does it take you to fall asleep?

  • Do you think about harming yourself?

  • Do you personally feel like you are struggling emotionally or mentally?


Stress and Autoimmune Disease Development


The mental health of patients living with autoimmune diseases has been a topic of research for many years.


A 2018 study sought out to determine whether stress can lead to the development of an autoimmune disease, and the conclusion was 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.”


The study states: “The findings of this study are consistent with some biological evidence linking psychological stress and stressful events to varying impairments of immune function, both of which lend support to a biopsychosocial model in the etiology of autoimmune disease. Under stress, the activated autonomic nervous system might induce the dysregulation of immune function and disinhibition of inflammatory response via the inflammatory reflex. Moreover, patients with PTSD have been reported to have excessively low cortisol levels, particularly in the context of early life trauma exposure. The consequence of long-lasting lower cortisol levels may be amplified production of proinflammatory cytokines with accelerated immune cell aging and overactivated immune system. This pattern is in line with the findings that patients with PTSD were at an increased risk of developing autoimmune disease, especially multiple autoimmune syndromes, with stronger association in younger age groups.”


Mental Health Concerns Once Diagnosed


Other studies have looked at the correlation between the onset of mental health conditions once a patient has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.


According to one study: “Up to 50% of patients with autoimmune diseases show an impairment of health-related quality of life and exhibit depression-like symptoms. The immune system not only leads to inflammation in affected organs, but also mediates behavior abnormalities including fatigue and depression-like symptoms.”


Another study shows: “Autoimmune diseases and infections are risk factors for subsequent mood disorder diagnosis … Inflammation is inherent to infections and autoimmune diseases. Several autoimmune diseases have been associated with mood disorders, possibly induced by inflammation or brain-reactive antibodies.”


A Team That Supports Your Mental Health!


Here at Paducah Rheumatology, we want to see you live a healthy and happy life. We understand the challenges that come with an autoimmune disease diagnosis, and we are ready to help you maneuver the ups and downs.


Your mental health is important to us!


Give us a call at 270-408-6100 and let’s schedule an appointment to discuss how we can best support your autoimmune disease management. A physician's referral is required for all new patients.


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