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Observations placeholder

Stress, fear and autoimmune diseases



Type of Spiritual Experience



a background paper to link autoimmune diseases -  the cause of many a spiritual experience - and stress of various sorts.

White blood cells, or leukocytes (also spelled "leucocytes"), are cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials.

This paper shows that they are released under stress or fear or some other extremely high emotion – not just when the body is under attack from parasites, bacteria, viruses and so on.

The immune system has a 'memory' for what it is being attacked by, as such it will search for abnormally high amounts of what to it are 'foreign bodies'. In a sense therefore we can see that sensitive individuals who are easily frightened or stresed are probably going to end up with allergies and autoimmune diseases – and they will become allergic to whatever was predominant in their blood stream or system at the time.

A description of the experience

Stress. 2003 Mar;6(1):41-7.Observing a fictitious stressful event: haematological changes, including circulating leukocyte activation. Mian R, Shelton-Rayner G, Harkin B, Williams P. School of Science and The Environment, Coventry University, Cox St., Coventry CV1 5FB, UK. r.mian@coventry.ac.uk

The aim of this study was to assess the effect of watching a psychological stressful event on the activation of leukocytes in healthy human volunteers.

Blood samples were obtained from 32 healthy male and female subjects aged between 20 and 26 years before, during and after either watching an 83-minute horror film that none of the subjects had previously seen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974) or by sitting quietly in a room (control group).

Total differential cell counts, leukocyte activation as measured by the nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) test, heart rate and blood pressure (BP) measurements were taken at defined time points.

There were significant increases in peripheral circulating leukocytes, the number of activated circulating leukocytes, haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and haematocrit (Hct) in response to the stressor.

These were accompanied by significant increases in heart rate, systolic and diastolic BP (P<0.05 from baseline). This is the first reported study on the effects of observing a psychologically stressful, albeit fictitious event on circulating leukocyte numbers and the state of leukocyte activation as determined by the nitrotetrazolium test.

PMID: 12637206

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps