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Home Herpes Research Herpes Research Stress and Depression Linked with Herpes Outbreaks

Stress and Depression Linked with Herpes Outbreaks

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Stress, worry, and bouts of feeling blue are all but unavoidable in the modern world. For those with genital herpes, daily pressures might increase the number of outbreaks.

To gauge the impact of emotional turmoil on genital herpes reactivation (shedding of the virus in the genital area) and genital lesions, researchers evaluated 19 women daily for stress, anxiety, and depression. The subjects were part of an HSV treatment study. A personality assessment was also done at the beginning of the study.

Over 22 weeks of follow-up, the researchers found stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression were associated with genital lesions, and predicted outbreaks about five days before they occurred. Anxiety levels were also linked with lesions three days following an outbreak. Stress was not a factor in shedding rates, though, and personality had no impact on either shedding or outbreaks.

The authors say their findings support the idea that “…[P]sychological distress is both a cause and consequence of genital lesion episodes.”

So what can one do? Those with frequent or severe episodes can talk with a health care provider about suppressive therapy, where herpes medication is taken daily to reduce or eliminate outbreaks. Stress reduction strategies might involve exercise, meditation, therapy, or medication. For more on getting stress and depression under control, visit the National Institutes of Health online at

Strachana E,Saracinob M,Selkeb S, Magaret A, Buchwald D, Wald A. The effects of daily distress and personality on genital HSV shedding and lesions in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of acyclovir in HSV-2 seropositive women. Brain, Behav. Immun., 2011.25(7):1475–1481.


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