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PTSD Can Trigger Autoimmune Diseases, Especially In Those with a Genetic Predisposition

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a psychiatric illness that affects mood and cognition. This disorder may also impose physiological repercussions by precipitating inflammation and triggering autoimmune diseases.

Gretchen N. Neigh, Ph.D., an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, stated that chronic and severe mental stress might lead to physical complications. Previous studies have linked PTSD to a heightened risk for multiple autoimmune diseases like psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease. Clinical studies conducted in the recent past have also discovered a causal link between PTSD and inflammation.

These effects are expressed because stress alters brain functioning and its interaction with different organ systems and their coordination. 

Further, cortisol – the primary stress hormone, influences the immune system and plays an important role in balancing immune functions. High-stress levels impair this balance and augment inflammation. Inflammatory processes contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. 

Scientists have found that patients diagnosed with PTSD harbor higher inflammatory marker levels, such as:

C-reactive protein

Interleukin (IL)-6

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α

Moreover, chronic, severe stress renders the body cortisol resistant. This accentuates inflammation and leads to autoimmune disease development, especially in those who are genetically predisposed to such immunological disorders. Further, mental stress also precipitates oxidative stress and may alter the gut micro flora; both can trigger autoimmune diseases.

Mental health disorders, if left untreated, may transform into physical disorders. Measures to prevent and treat these issues include:

Relaxation;

Meditation; and

Stress management skills through self-care

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