Emotions That Weaken Your Immune System

What you think and, above all, what you feel, affects your immune system. Some emotions, like persistent anguish, weaken you, making you more vulnerable to certain illnesses. At least, this is what recent scientific research suggests.
Emotions That Weaken Your Immune System

Last update: 31 August, 2022

Do you have a really hard time when you feel taken over by stress, anguish, or sadness? If so, it’s likely that you also feel more tired, without much strength. That’s because there are certain emotions that weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to developing certain diseases.

However, this doesn’t mean that, at any given moment, you might suddenly develop diabetes or be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, although the probability does increase. The good news is that factors, such as psychological therapy, reverse this risk and improve, not only your emotional well-being but also your physical health.

It’s clear that what you think and feel affects you. Indeed, you are, in effect, what happens to you in your life. Therefore, knowing how to regulate, manage, and face these states of emotional discomfort can change everything, and promote a better quality of life.

Emotions play a significant role in regulating body systems that influence health.

Brain illuminated with colors symbolizing the emotions that weaken your immune system
Scientists have found that people with a more positive emotional disposition tend to be healthier.

The emotions that weaken your immune system

Research conducted in 2018 found that experiencing negatively valenced emotions impacts the functioning of the immune system. A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University (USA) explained that some states, such as persistent anxiety, raise a general inflammatory response.

In this study, Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland and colleagues explained that the inflammation process occurs as part of the immune response. It’s similar to when your body reacts to an infectious process, a broken bone, or a skin wound. Your brain, in the case of emotional discomfort, detects a threat, something to defend itself against, and activates that inflammatory mechanism.

It’s pretty obvious that what happens in your mind has an immediate effect on your health. However, there’s now increasing evidence of how factors such as stress or sadness alter brain activity and weaken immunity in the long term.

Biomarkers in the blood: suffering leaves a mark

The researchers discovered that when an individual deals day after day with worry, sadness, or anguish, something changes in their body. A simple blood test is all that’s required to see how the biomarkers of inflammation become elevated.

Your body reacts to emotions with a negative valence. If a low mood drags on for days or weeks, your brain perceives it as something your body needs to act on. Then, the described inflammatory process is activated. If you don’t find relief and the anguish is constant, your immune system will weaken.

A weak immune system associated with psychological discomfort causes the risk of heart disease to rise. Furthermore, diabetes or even autoimmune diseases can appear.

The emotions that make you sick

Now you know that there are emotions that weaken your immune system, you’d probably like to know what they are. In fact, you may already have an inkling about which ones they are. They’re the kinds that usually occur at those times when life hurts a little more and you feel more vulnerable. Moments when emotions weigh you down, ultimately making you sick.

  • Persistent sadness.
  • Anguish, feelings of threat and fear, and the obsessive idea that everything is going to go wrong.
  • Constant stress that lasts for weeks.
  • Anger, irritability, and frustration that’s maintained over time.

These are the kinds of emotions that affect your immune rsponse.

As a matter of fact, the researchers suspected that there may be a relationship between the prefrontal cortex and the immune system. That link would be governed by a complex hormonal system, such as the pituitary, hypothalamic, and adrenal glands.

Therapy not only allows you to better manage complex states such as anguish, sadness or stress, but also improves your physical health and your body’s immune response.

Man doing therapy to treat those emotions that weaken your immune system
Talking and venting your emotions is the first step in reducing the impact of what worries you.

Reversing the action of damaging emotions

Unregulated emotions can make you sick. They heighten your sensitivity to colds, the flu, or immobilizing headaches. They also increase your risk of a heart attack if you maintain a lifestyle dominated by stress and constant pressure.

However, the good news is that there are mechanisms to reduce your body’s inflammatory response. One of them is psychological support. A study conducted by San Diego State University (USA) analyzed 56 randomized clinical trials with more than 4,060 participants. They found that cognitive behavioral therapy improved the immunity of the patients. In fact, the index of cytokines or proinflammatory markers was reduced.

Beyond the clinical approach, it won’t hurt for you to use your own strategies whenever you find yourself gripped by uncomfortable emotions. Some techniques, such as problem solving, allow you to face what worries you so that you don’t find yourself drowning in your problems. Incorporating relaxation, meditation, or basic emotional regulation strategies into your daily routine will allow you to reduce and better channel these situations. The key is to act and not let go. You have to learn how to handle the pain of life so that your health doesn’t deteriorate.

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  • Graham-Engeland JE, Sin NL, Smyth JM, Jones DR, Knight EL, Sliwinski MJ, Almeida DM, Katz MJ, Lipton RB, Engeland CG. Negative and positive affect as predictors of inflammation: Timing matters. Brain Behav Immun. 2018 Nov;74:222-230. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2018.09.011. Epub 2018 Sep 11. PMID: 30217538; PMCID: PMC6289783.
  • Shields GS, Spahr CM, Slavich GM. Psychosocial Interventions and Immune System FunctionA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical TrialsJAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(10):1031–1043. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.0431