Health Team

Can stress really make you sick?

Posted August 14, 2018 7:03 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2018 9:35 a.m. EDT

We know that daily stresses impact our thoughts and our mood, but what can too much stress do to our long-term health?

According to WRAL's Dr. Allen Mask, stress can actually make us more likely to develop autoimmune disorders.

Experts have known for some time that what happens in our minds impacts our bodies from head to toe.

"Our minds and our bodies are connected," said Dr. Scott Bea, a psychologist with The Cleveland Clinic. "Our emotions and what happens in our body are connected – we've known that for a long time. It's just another study that shows it."

Dr. Bea points to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which looked at registry data of more than 100,000 people. Those who were diagnosed with stress-related disorders were more likely to experience problems with their immune systems and develop auto-immune disorders.

Can stress really make you sick?

According to Dr. Bea, there is a common three-pronged response to stress. First, there is an alarmed feeling, and then there is discomfort followed by exhaustion.

Good coping practices used early in that response can help buffer your reaction to stress, Dr. Bea suggests. Increasing physical activity, socializing with other people and taking control of your activity schedule can all help.

In the same way that we may be concerned with our physical wellbeing, we also need to be aware of our emotional wellbeing.

"We're a culture that looks at physical exercise very seriously," said Dr. Bea. "We want people to move their bodies, go to the gym, engage in cardiovascular exercise and resistance training – but we don't think about emotional exercises like keeping our emotions kind of tuned up and keeping our coping mechanisms tuned up."

Dr. Bea recommends learning mindfulness skills to keep your mind in the present rather than on future worries.