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How Stress Affects Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms


As part of MS Awareness Month, we want to talk about the role stress plays in multiple sclerosis. Having any chronic illness is likely to increase stress levels and MS is no exception. However, stress is more likely to exacerbate the symptoms of MS and bring about a flare or relapse.

While we know it’s impossible to go through life without getting stressed out, it’s important for MS patients to try and avoid triggers as much as possible and to get into good lifestyle habits that can help manage and reduce stress.

Find out more about Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month here.

If you find yourself feeling unexpectedly sad, angry, anxious or more fatigued than normal, you are probably suffering from stress. Tackling stress and taking positive steps to reduce it will benefit your overall physical and emotional health. (Source: WebMD)

Getting plenty of rest is one way to try and reduce stress. If you’re well rested, you’ll be better prepared to handle difficult situations. If you know you have a potentially stressful situation coming up, planning ahead can help you cope better with the event. Don’t be afraid to decline invitations to events that may make you anxious and leave early if you’re feeling uncomfortable.

Take time out of your day to unwind by doing something relaxing like listening to music, painting, yoga or going for a walk—anything that helps you to forget your worries for a while.

Read six more tips for reducing stress and learning to relax here. 

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Christopher Reznich says:

    The article was entitled “How Stress Affects Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms,” but there was scant information on this topic, other than it can exacerbate them and bring about a relapse. The article would have been more accurately titled “What to do when you feel stressed.”

  2. Alexandra says:

    My name isAlexandra- taking care of my 92 yr mom who is immobile- has severe Alzheimer’s. & has become very mean, “ I want ( insert) Now , then here whining starts
    She will as for supper not 5 minuets after everyone has eaten . That’s well hell breaks loose- “ I never ate. I never get even a glass of water, not a peace of bread “ and the list goes on . I’m with 24/7 I watch her cause she tries to get out of the bed. That in and of itself is hell. She will argue “ yes I can walk, how did I get here then ? “ I tell her the ambulance brought you home mom , but that she won’t believe.

    I am at my wits end. I’ve been very sick for 7 days ( puking, not eating at all, ).

    I really don’t know what to do anymore

    Thank you

  3. Lori Wegler says:

    Hi Alexandra,
    My name is Lori and I also have M.S. Unfortunatly I don’t have much advice for you other then to say you are not alone. I am dealing with my 84 year old dad, who lives 3 hours away from me and has end stage C.O.P.D. I am finding myself in a very stressful situation, but not with my dad, it is with his caregivers. He is living now and wants to pass away at home. We have him enrolled in Hospice, in which a hospice nurse comes out to his house every week and does an assessment on him and checks him over for any changes etc. Just to make along story short…. He has a women living with him that our family hired as his full time caregiver ( my dad has a insurance policy that he purchased many years ago that would pay for either a nursing home or to provide care at his home). She does a good job with dad, but being his daughter… I do feel left out on his day to day activities,. Then he has this guy named Mike that has lived with him for about 12 years now. He ended up living in a camper on dad’s property througha friend of a friend type situation, and throughout the years has worked his way into living in the 2nd bedroom of my dad’s lower level of his home. Mike is causing so much trouble with me when I go up to visit dad…. which is about twice a month. He is a severe alcoholic and he is very mean when he is drunk, which is anytime he isn’t working. When I am up north at my dad’s place, Mike will come home and start a fight with me, about anything and accuse me of everything under the sun… of which I fight back. Then soon we are in a huge screaming match which involved every swear word in the book, and I am called every horrible word that a women could be called. My dad pretty much lays on his couch and lets us battle it out. Last time, which was 2 weeks ago, was our biggest fight ever…. even my dad admitted it. I slept with a knife under my pillow for the time I was up there. When I got back home I called my dad up and told him that I cannot have Mike on the property when I am up there and that Mike will have to leave during my visits which last about 3 ro 4 days twice a month. I just received an email from my dad stating that he isn’t going to ask Mike to leave, even though…. I have cried every day since that last happened and I feel that I have no support because nobody knows the magnitude of these fights. It is causing my M.S symptoms to act up… I have a loyaloty to my dad, but I don’t want my M.S to get worse and I want to stop feeling the way I do, very tired, confused, no memory, nerve pain in my left leg, my left eye is going blurry, head achs ( I am not a head ach kind of person) and I am sure there is more, but my memory is just getting so poor that I can’t even remember my symptoms! I don’t know what to do either? Everybody says to just don’t go up to see my dad….. he is dieing to be very blunt. I am so confused… Dad won’t give up Mike because Mike does everything around the house that dad use to be able to do before his C.O.P.D got bad. Dad tells me that he loves me, but basically I just need to put up with Mike and his abuse…. is what I am gathering from his email I received a few days ago.
    Thank you

      • Lori Wegler says:

        Hi Gia,
        I just found this post now – August 1st, 2018. I thought I would update you. My dad passed away on April 11th, 2018. Mike ended up trying to commit suicide on January 6th, 2018…. with a shotgun , sitting on his snowmobile that was located in front of my dad’s garage… Nobody can believe that he made it, but he did. The bullet missed his brain, but blew off the left side of his face to be blunt. I did put my foot down at that point and said that Mike IS NOT coming back to my dad’s place once he gets out of the hospital, and my dad actually agreed. I was my dad’s full time caregiver from January to April 11th when he passed. A lot of stress due to being his main caregiver and also knowing that he wouldn’t be around much longer. Now that it has been a few months, my body is just re-acting now. Very tired, sluggish, loosing weight due to not having an appetite… more nerve pain, left eye is getting worse… it feels horrible. My depression is coming back… even though I am on antidepressents and have been for years now. I just feel like I am in a bad place now.

        • Lisa says:

          Hi Lori,I am so sorry for what you went through and what you are going through. My nephew was just diagnosed with MS and I would love to see him get into a support group or see a therapist. Is that something you have done or considered? I think talking things through would help with depression. Do you have a support system in place? Are there people you can you can talk to? I feel that is so important and truly believe that will help my nephew. Depression is difficult, I struggle with it, but it always helps me to just talk. I do hope you feel better, mentally and physically.

  4. Heather says:

    My stress is my mother-in-law. If I didn’t have to deal with her I would have a lot less stress and fewer relapses. I’m in the middle of painful relapse and was doing some research to see what can help me. Every article I read says avoid stress. So I guess that means I need to avoid my mother-law !!

  5. Pablo says:

    An intense stress situation can drop me totally down with even trouble to walk “normally”. These symptoms could last for 2 or 3 days. Lots of rest increase the recover speed. MS for almost 20 years.

  6. Angie says:

    I wish my husband & his family would read about MS like my parents did when we found out I had RRMS in 2005. I wish they all understood that I may look fine but I’m not fine! Every day I hurt. Between neuropathy vision problems & having to work I am so stressed. Some members of my husbands family have said & done some mean things in the past so I avoid them to avoid emotional stress. No one gets it!

  7. Ebony Harris says:

    I have MS since 2001 and I am not sure if I can live with this any longer. I am teary eyed typing this but I feel like I am done with life I am blessed with a child was married but I am still in pain I want out

  8. nola magdeline says:

    okay everyone lets B R E A T H E. ive been googling TED TALKS,
    TEDTALKS DEPRESSION , TEDTALKS CHRONIC ILLNESS, TEDTALKS LONELINESS,call an 24 hour prayer line, DONT GIVE UP !! and even when you do “GIVE UP” dont GIVE IN to hurting yourself, it’s ok to give up/ surrender for a few hours a day or so, but please promise me dont give in.something tells me YOU”RE WORTH IT.

  9. Laura says:

    I let a lady move in I was going to let her lease my house, however she left me a note saying I’m causing her M S to trigger . Can I have her sign a waiver not holding me responsible ? She asked that I leave her alone . I own the house and she hasn’t signed a lease . Would you think it best for both of us to part ways ? I
    Don’t want to be threatened by someone Whom I was considering leasing my home to . Please let me know your thoughts on this please.

  10. John Bell says:

    Hi Laura
    DONT let her sign anything which would compromise you in any way!
    DONT be a soft touch with her !
    DO. Kick her out at your first chance. Good luck

  11. Diane says:

    Living with an alcoholic binge drinker is so stressful. I’m afraid he’s making my MS worse and killing his brain cells to top it off. How can I manage this? I found out that I’m not as stabilized with my MS as I thought as if that’s not enough stress.

    • Tim says:

      Living with Ms is hard enough.Explain to him how you feel and if he is reasonable he will meet you halfway.Get him to seek help for his problems it is not your fault.

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