Vitiligo can be triggered by many things — and stress is one of them.
According to Dr. John Harris, Director of the University of Massachusetts Vitiligo Clinic and Research Center, your genes make you more or less likely to get vitiligo. However, a stressful event can trigger the onset or spread of vitiligo.
“We frequently see patients who note that their vitiligo spreads during stress,” said Dr. Harris.
“The stressor can vary quite a bit from person to person, from final exams in college, to divorce or loss of a loved one. Everyone responds differently to stress, so it’s difficult to measure in a formal clinical study, but anecdotal reports from patients really do seem to support this as a true effect.”
In January 2020, the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health published a report where several doctors conducted a study to determine if “precipitating, stressful events play a role in vitiligo.” Using sophisticated software and data analysis tools, the team polled 100 patients with vitiligo and 100 patients without vitiligo about their perceived stress. They also asked the participants with vitiligo about their stress-related conditions. They found that stress should be considered a potential trigger of vitiligo and showed that stress “can influence progressive depigmentation of the skin.”
Why is it important to cut back on stress if you live with vitiligo?
In general, short-term stress can be a good thing, triggering the body to have a fight or flight reaction. However, chronic or long-term stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. When you live with vitiligo, stress can also trigger the onset or spread of an autoimmune response that results in more depigmentation. In other words, reducing stress is not only good for your body and mental health, but also good for your vitiligo.
How do you decrease stress?
There are a myriad of ways to decrease stress, and your approach should be specific to your needs and preferences. Here are a few ways to decrease stress through mental, physical and social activities.
Talking to someone, whether a therapist, friend or family member, helps to get things off your chest and clears your head. Many people try mediation, which focuses your mind and helps dissolve negative energy.
You can also use happiness journaling to decrease stress. Writing about your feelings can help the brain overcome emotional issues and help you feel happier, according to research from the University of California in Los Angeles.
Exercise is one of the best ways to burn off stress. Getting your body in motion may help increase the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals your body makes when it’s active. It also promotes positive body image and in turn, a positive outlook.
Breathing exercises are another way to feel that zen. They can help you relax because they mimic the feelings of relaxation your body experiences when you are truly at ease. A change of scenery also helps you get through that rut. According to Psychology Today, “Our physiological, psychological, and emotional states change as our surroundings change. Natural places relax us. We’re able to focus better and we feel more emotionally engaged.”
Social connection is a natural way to help decrease stress. Finding someone you connect with can help you feel less alone in living with vitiligo. Find a support group that you relate to. Do a random act of kindness. Connect with an old friend. Follow vitiligo accounts on social media. Importantly, ask for help if you need it.
How do you cope with stress?
Disclaimer: This information is intended for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor or a professional healthcare provider for medical advice, treatment or diagnosis.