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Role of overstress in CFS

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS Discussion' started by sorin, Dec 19, 2015.

  1. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    Hello all!

    Some people consider that there is a factor that dis-balance the immune system and then creates a defective immune system that could cause the CFS. I would have a work hypothesis - what if the immune deficiency is the result of a high, very intensive period of overstress?
    I would mention 3 categories of stress (and just give a couple of examples)
    1) psychological stress (like feeling prisoner and being unable to break a closing loop in your life, not being able to adapt to a new environment, not being able to change something in your life because of a dependence on an external factor, feeling marginalized and useless in community, etc)
    2) intellectual stress (like doing a very stressful job - like a programmer that has to fix bugs under time pressure)
    3) physical stress (like doing too much exercises in Gym )
    I experienced very high stress in all 3 categories a few years before my CFS started and just asking myself if this overstress was the factor that triggered my disease.
    Some of us want to push our limits far and far... But we do not know where exactly is our final limit, beyond that limit is only a crash - our body just collapses. Is like you are stretching a string until that string breaks. I felt at some point in time - that something was broken in my body (and is not a metaphor), and then the disease started a few months later and the recovering of the body by itself was not anymore possible.
    In 2007-2010 I had very high stress of types 1) and 2). In 2010, after 3 years of very high pressure I got viral infection (most probably H1N1).
    In late 2011 I experienced stress of type 3) for a few months. In beginning of 2012 my disease started to manifest, i was not able to do too much.
    What do you think? Is overstress a possible trigger of the immune deficiency?
     
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  2. jess100

    jess100 Senior Member

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    I was (and still am) under the same kind of stresses you talk about (mostly #1) beginning about 2009- a few years before I got sick. However, I believe the genesis of my decline was a tick bite because there is no other way to explain having Babesia (that I know of) Unless perhaps I've had Babesia for a while in a latent state and getting sick from other things made the Babesia reactivate.
    It's also interesting that you mention H1N1-because I was in Mexico City when that went around and all the restaurants were ordered closed by the govt. to stop it from spreading. We still traveled by bus to many parts of the city. I have never been tested for it . Interesting thought.
    I think stress does more to us than we can even imagine.
     
  3. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6?

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    I think that it can be a combination of stress, overexertion and infection that leads to ME in some cases.

    If some cases are triggered by an infection (and an infection can increase the risk of autoimmunity developing), then stress can make us more susceptible to the infection, thus play a role that way. See this article.
     
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  4. Jammy88

    Jammy88 Senior Member

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    I believe most of the time our issues are due to infections. Of course, stress makes things worse. Hope you guys can have a happy Christmas.. stay positive and keep praying. Cheers
     
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  5. Mary

    Mary Forum Support Assistant

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    @sorin - I think it's extremely likely that stress played a major role in me getting sick. I had severe stress for many years before things broke down. If an infectious agent is involved, I've theorized that perhaps stress weakened my body and immune system such that I could not fight it off.
     
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  6. ahmo

    ahmo Senior Member

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    My experience is like Mary. Also, chronic B12, folate, thyroid deficiencies.

    ETA: also long standing deficiencies relating to pyroluria: p5p, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, manganese.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2015
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  7. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    @Mary I completely agree with you.
     
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  8. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards "Gibberish"

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    Stress seems to be a possible trigger factor for ME but it is something that is very difficult to measure precisely enough to be able to show a definite connection with any particular disease.

    You say 'the immunodeficiency' but I think the consensus in the research community is that there is no evidence for an immune deficiency as such in ME. NK function tests may measure low but NK cells kill other immune cells so low function might lead to immune overactivity. I am not sure we know enough to say that what if anything is wrong with the immune system in some or all cases.
     
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  9. duncan

    duncan Senior Member

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    In a few practical ways, stress may be a poor word choice. Exertion may be better, but somehow that comes up short on emotional values. Still, exertion applies to the dualism that results when we bifurcate being into physical vs. mental. Physical exertion, intellectual exertion, concentration is a form of exertion, etc. Exertion doesn't bring with it the psych baggage as much, so it takes a little shoehorning to accommodate emotions, but, eh, it can be done.

    Instead of immunodeficency, it may be more appropriate to refer to immune dysfunction or immune abnormalities.
     
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  10. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    In 2009-2010 was a H1N1 flu pandemic also in Europe. At that time I was living in Ireland, in Dublin. Nothing was closed there. Not even the office in one of the biggest multinational corporation I was working in. Absolutely no action was taken. I was working in a open space with hundreds of people. That multinational just did not care. I felt like a serial number that could help for them to get a bigger profit. (3189 cases and 22 deaths reported in Ireland in 2010 from H1N1)
    About half of the people in the open space got sick but most of them recovered after a few weeks and came back to work. I was staying at home for about 3 weeks and feeling so bad that then (February 2010), I thought for the first time that I can die then. Of course that the only doctor I could have access to, a GP, was of no help. She just told me that is flu and need to stay home and take some aspirin or paracetamol. Years later I heard that I can not test for H1N1. After this episode I was not able to recover ever. But this episode came after a 3 years of highly intense stress of type 1 and 2.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
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  11. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Dr Chia observed that when people who had an acute enterovirus infection were inadvertently given corticosteroids as an (incorrect) treatment, some would develop ME/CFS (see this thread).

    In other words, Chia found that a not infrequent etiological equation for ME/CFS is:

    Acute infection + corticosteroids = ME/CFS

    Thus there appears to be a cortisol effect involved in the triggering of ME/CFS.



    Now psychological or emotional stress can cause the body to release cortisol, so my thoughts are that if you happened to contract an ME/CFS-associated virus like enterovirus during a period of high psychological or emotional stress, elevated levels of cortisol in your body may play a role in triggering ME/CFS from the infection.

    Whether the blood levels of cortisol naturally released under psychological or emotional stress are comparable to the levels created by hydrocortisone, prednisone or prednisolone prescriptions, I am not sure.
     
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  12. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    So this is an interesting scientific evidence of the theory that infection+stress=CFS. It is good that our intuition is backed by scientific evidence.
     
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  13. Valentijn

    Valentijn Senior Member

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    I wasn't stressed at all when I became ill. In fact, things were working out very well at the time.
     
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  14. Jammy88

    Jammy88 Senior Member

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    same here. :(
     
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  15. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    I would not call it evidence as yet.

    As mentioned, I don't know how much cortisol is released into the blood under conditions of high psychological or emotional stress; but if these cortisol levels were comparable to those of standard corticosteroid medication, then possibly it could provide an explanatory mechanism of how stress might be a factor in ME/CFS triggering in some cases.

    I would doubt that stress is involved in most ME/CFS case though, even if it might potentially play a role in some. But where psychological stress was involved in the onset of ME/CFS, it is worth exploring this avenue, in my view.


    Anyone suffering high levels of stress during the onset of their ME/CFS might consider exploring de-stressing therapies such as the Reverse Therapy or the Lightning Process, which I believe aim to remove any locked-in stress from the mind.

    You can't really discuss this much on this forum, because most forms of psychological therapy for ME/CFS are usually criticized here, and suggesting such therapies will not make you win any popularity contests. However, if you look at the case of @sueami (see her thread here), she appeared to recover after a few Skype sessions with a Reverse Therapy therapist from the UK.

    Now it's quite possible that these therapies will be a waste of time and money; but it is also possible they might help.


    I would point out though that there is a difference between a stress-related etiology of ME/CFS, and the Wessely school ideas about ME/CFS etiology. Wessely believes that ME/CFS is maintained by the patient's belief that they have ME/CFS.

    This is different to saying that elevated stress may be behind ME/CFS in a few cases. Although there are some similarities to Wessely's views, because it is possible that your beliefs and habitual behaviors may serve to lock in a stress response into your mind. So by changing your beliefs and habitual behaviors, you may be able to de-stress, which in turn conceivably may help your immune system recover and clear any viral infection, or quell autoimmunity. The way @sueami described it, this de-stressing by changing beliefs and habitual behaviors appears to be the basis of the Reverse Therapy she benefitted from.


    In general though I am not keen on promoting the idea that ME/CFS might involve a psychological stress, because I don't think this is likely to be true in the general case, and promoting these ideas may play into the hands of the Wessely school / insurance industry politics, which I try to avoid doing. However, in an individual case, where psychological stress was present during ME/CFS onset or later on, I think we need to put the patient before politics.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
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  16. nandixon

    nandixon Senior Member

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    I had been under considerable stress (both psychological and physical) at the time I developed ME/CFS, and the actual trigger could well have been an infection in my case.

    Cortisol has a profound effect on immune function. Cortisol binding receptors are actually present on various immune cells.

    I think the possibility could exist that inappropriate cortisol levels (transient or otherwise) may make a person more susceptible to some form of immune disregulation as the sequela to an infection that may only be a trigger for the process that unfolds. It could also be vice versa too, i.e., a chronic but otherwise seemingly benign infection may exist which in combination with inappropriate cortisol levels (transient or otherwise) might result in the perpetual immune dysfunction. These may also require some additional genetic vulnerability, too, of course.

    Once the immune dysfunction might in fact have somehow been triggered by inappropriate cortisol secretion (or its synthetic drug equivalents), together with presumed infectious and/or genetic factors, I seriously doubt that any sort of psychological de-stressing therapy is going to be helpful - no more than it is in multiple sclerosis or lupus, etc.
     
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  17. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    We must hope for this possibility. After all there are cases of people suffering from cancer that seems to be cured only by working with their mind (mind-body connection). Myself I do not exclude the possibility that each biological cell to have beside organic and material components a so called "cell intelligence" or even a spiritual component. I hope this does not sound too much of a form of mysticism. I think that the role of mind/psychic was somehow minimized (or neglected) and this could prove wrong.
     
  18. Theodore

    Theodore Senior Member

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    Wouldn't be more people with CFS if the equation is Infection + Stress?

    What I really mean is that a lot of people are stressed, maybe a lot more than whose who aren't. We live in a modern world where everyone has a good reason to be stressed...The loss of a beloved? Unemployment? Bad environment at work? Love issue?
     
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  19. sorin

    sorin Senior Member

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    I think is about that critical limit of what you can handle and manage in terms of stress. And is about the level of stress, which is different from person to person.
     
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  20. BurnA

    BurnA Senior Member

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    In medical terms is physical stress on the body considered to be a stress the same as a stress on the brain. Ie would someone who exercises to a high level be considered stressed the same as someone under a lot of pressure from work or money or relationships etc.?

    I saw a cardiologist during the week for my POTS and she mentioned in passing that
    she had seen many marathon runners with same.
    She couldn't back it up with anything when I probed and she did say it could be that she just happened to get refferred more marathon running patients but I did find it odd that she said it, given my personal association of onset with exercise.
     
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