The term stress as it is used today was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change,” which means that when our senses notice any physical or emotional change, our body will respond in either a positive or negative way. If the changes are persistently negative, the outcomes have been noted to cause physical problems such as heart disease, strokes, and even autoimmune disease.
For pemphigus and pemphigoid patients, there are several events that can trigger stress and exacerbate disease activity, even simply being diagnosed with a rare disease. The time it takes to be diagnosed, the medication itself, and how it all affects our families and friends can trigger stress and depression. So the question then becomes “What can we do to normalize our responses to all these stimuli so we can decrease stress, change the course of depression and in turn maybe reduce disease activities?”
Sometimes the answer is medication. If the depression takes over, using medication for a short or long term might be necessary to get back to a calmer, less stressful place. But if the idea of medication doesn’t work for you, there are several other choices to help alleviate both stress and depression.
Sometimes just having someone outside your circle of friends and family can make a huge difference in helping to see life differently. One of the most respected tools in therapy is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy can help you learn how to deal with your thoughts and can take control of how you interpret and deal with certain stressors. Along with CBT, there is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which helps to change negative thinking patterns and work for a more positive change in thinking.
Meditation is an effective tool for giving the body and mind a chance to rest. It can possibly help with anxiety, high blood pressure, weight control, and sleep. There are several ways for a person to experience meditation. Prayer is a form of meditation, as is repeating a phrase (a Mantra) as they do in Transcendental Meditation, or practicing mindfulness – being in the here and now.
Hypnotherapy starts with placing a person in a meditative state and uses different tools to bring in positive thoughts through affirmations. When a person is in a hypnotic state the mind becomes open to positive suggestions that can be retained and remembered. It is a myth that someone using hypnosis can be influenced to do things they would never do. In reality a person would never do anything against their beliefs. The person is always aware of the process while it is happening.
Acupuncture is a great way to relieve stress which in turn can help relieve depression. Acupuncture uses specific types of needles in a quiet, relaxing environment. This type of stress reduction was developed in China over 2500 years ago and is still relevant today. Acupuncture has also been shown to help after surgeries and chemotherapy.
Healthy eating has also been attributed to helping a person relieve stress and depression and has anecdotally helped with lessening disease activity. Certain foods have been known to make a person feel good for a few moments, but then that good feeling goes away quickly, possibly causing depression. Often the medication for our disease contributes to increased appetite, but being aware and finding other methods to help reduce the cravings can be very beneficial.
These are just some of the ways to help reduce stress and in turn help reduce depression. Each individual has their own way of living with and dealing with stress, depression, and how that might affect disease.