How to Manage Your Stress When You Have Multiple Sclerosis

Study finds time with therapist had dramatic effect
colorful brain lobes in head silhouette

The stress of dealing with a chronic disease can be tough for some people to overcome. A new study finds stress management programs may help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) keep the disease from progressing.

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Psychologist Amy Sullivan, PsyD, says, “I think this study exemplifies the anti-inflammatory effects of psychological intervention and the mind-body connection with MS patients and any chronic disease.” Dr. Sullivan says.

Northwestern University researchers studied 121 multiple sclerosis patients. Half of them were assigned to take part in sixteen 50-minute sessions with a therapist and to undergo brain imaging.

Results show that during the treatment period, 77 percent of those receiving the stress management training were free of new lesions, or brain damage that indicates disease activity.

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But the positive effects did not continue after the treatment period.

Researchers say more studies will be needed to determine what type of stress management training can provide the most long-term benefit. Regardless, Dr. Sullivan says MS patients should understand the importance of stress management in managing their disease.

“If you are a patient, ask your neurologist, ask your physician assistant, ask your treating team if you feel like you need help with stress management or some help with psychological interventions because, although there are few psychologists that specialize in MS, there are people out there who are familiar with the disease and they are familiar with stress management in particular as it relates to multiple sclerosis,” Dr. Sullivan says.

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Complete findings for this study are in the journal Neurology.

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