Can Stress Cause Shingles? The Painful Reveal

Discover the surprising connection: can stress cause shingles? Learn how to prevent outbreaks and protect yourself with our helpful tips.
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Wondering if stress can cause shingles? Research shows that stress might indeed trigger shingles outbreaks 1. This link between our mental state and physical health is important to understand.

You might be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed out. These feelings could potentially lead to health issues like shingles. That’s why finding ways to manage your stress is key.

Key Takeaways

  • High stress levels can weaken the immune system, leading to potential outbreaks of shingles.
  • Implementing effective stress management techniques is crucial in preventing shingles.
  • Comprehending the link between stress and shingles and making healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce susceptibility.

This blog is part of a series on “physical symptoms of stress“.

The Relationship Between Stress and Shingles

Stress sure knows how to throw a wrench in our plans, doesn’t it? It’s like a sneaky little gremlin, weakening our immune system and making us more likely to get shingles. When we’re under pressure, our bodies produce cortisol and adrenaline. These are like celebrities at a party – they take up all the attention, leaving our immune system in the shadows.

This is when the varicella-zoster virus, the culprit behind shingles, seizes the opportunity to make a comeback. Just like a mischievous child acting out when the parents are distracted. The connection between stress and shingles is clear as day – chronic stress plays the role of the villain, weakening our defenses and giving the virus a chance to cause havoc.

Now, let’s not all panic at once. Let’s instead rally our troops – relaxation techniques, exercise, and mindfulness, our trusted allies. They can help us manage stress and reboot our immune system. By making stress management a priority, we can build a fortress around our bodies and reduce the risk of shingles outbreaks.

Understanding Shingles Triggers

The link between stress and shingles shines a spotlight on how stress can take a toll on our immune system, making us more vulnerable to this uncomfortable condition. Now, let’s look at three culprits that can set off this shingles alarm:

First up, we have Mental Stress. Life can sometimes throw us curveballs and maintaining a sense of purpose can be challenging. These intense psychological stressors can indeed play a significant role in poking the sleeping bear, or in our case, reactivating the shingles virus.

Next in line is the Hormonal Response. Stress can put our body in overdrive, causing the release of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones act like a snooze button for our immune system, creating a window for the varicella-zoster virus to wake up and stretch its legs.

Lastly, we have the Immunological Impact. Times of psychological and immunological stress, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, can make us more susceptible to the reactivation of the shingles virus. It’s as if our immune system is the city and the virus is the villain taking advantage of a momentary lapse in the city’s defenses.

Stress Management Techniques for Shingles Prevention

We all know life can get a little chaotic sometimes, don’t we? We need to keep our stress in check to maintain our immune system’s strength and ward off shingles. So, let’s try some stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation.

Preventing shingles with stress

And don’t forget about exercise! It’s not only for maintaining our physique but also for preventing shingles. It releases those feel-good hormones, endorphins, which tackle stress and boost our overall well-being. We also need to remember self-care practices and relaxation – they deserve a spot in our daily routines to help reduce stress.

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and being present, are also part of our stress management toolkit. They might just be the ‘chill pills’ we need to reduce our chances of getting shingles. Here’s another trio for us to consider – a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular physical activity. They’re like the three musketeers of stress management, fighting off the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the shingles culprit.


Yes, stress can help to trigger shingles. People with high stress could have the varicella-zoster virus reactivate, which causes shingles.

Research shows that almost 90% of adults in the U.S. have been exposed to this virus. This means when they’re feeling stressed, they could be at a higher risk of getting shingles. So, managing stress is important. It can help to lessen the chance of having a shingles outbreak.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Emotional Stress Bring on Shingles?

Yes, emotional stress can trigger shingles. High stress levels can weaken the immune system, possibly causing a shingles outbreak. Chronic stress and significant life events can contribute to shingles. Factors like COVID fatigue and job-related pressures might increase susceptibility. Elevated cortisol from stress can further suppress immunity, enhancing the risk of shingles.

What Usually Triggers Shingles?

Shingles can be triggered by various unpredictable factors. These include stress, aging, and a weakened immune system. These elements can reactivate the dormant chickenpox virus, leading to shingles. Stress weakens our immune defenses, making us more susceptible to shingles. Emotional strain, life events, and prolonged stress are common triggers.

What Not to Do When You Have Shingles?

If you’re suffering from shingles, it’s crucial not to scratch or pick the rash as it can lead to infection and scarring. Stress can exacerbate your symptoms and hinder recovery, so try to avoid it. Don’t apply antibiotic ointments unless a healthcare professional advises you to, as this could lead to complications. Avoid wearing tight clothing over the rash to aid comfort and healing.

How Long Do You Feel Unwell With Shingles?

The duration of shingles symptoms can vary but typically lasts between 2-4 weeks. Initially, you may feel burning or tingling, followed by a rash that usually crusts over within a week to ten days. Discomfort might linger for weeks, especially if you develop postherpetic neuralgia. Quick medical intervention and proper treatment can help control the length and severity of symptoms.

  1. Shingles and stress: Is there a link? ([]
Alex Reijnierse
Alex Reijnierse

Alex Reijnierse is a stress management expert with over a decade of experience in helping individuals effectively manage and reduce stress. He holds a Master of Science (MSc) and has a background in high-pressure environments, which has given him firsthand experience in dealing with chronic stress.

The articles on this website are fact-checked, with sources cited where relevant. They also reflect personal experiences in dealing with the effects of stress and its management. When in doubt, consult with a certified healthcare professional. See also the disclaimer.