Can You Think A Cold Sore? Is It Mind Over Matter?
Our identity is wrapped up in what others think of us – or, more accurately, what we think others think of us.
This is from a book I have been reading – Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
It was one of those rare moments that made me stop and repeat “I think what I think you think I am” over and over again. So, I followed my minds rabbit hole and one of my thoughts was can you think a cold sore into existence. And the answer surprised me.
So, most of us would have heard of a hypochondriac. Someone who lives with the fear that they have a serious, but undiagnosed medical condition, even though diagnostic tests show there is nothing wrong with them. This was one of the first things to pop into my head. They think they are sick, but they are not really afflicted with what they think. There could be some mental health issues though.
A hypochondriac can generally be cured with a placebo (I will please, in Latin). What is a placebo when a person's physical or mental health appears to improve after taking a placebo or 'dummy' treatment.
Then I read about the nocebo effect (I will harm in Latin). A good example of that is people reporting side effects they were warned about in a clinical trial when they are on a placebo (sugar pills). So not what I was looking for. So, they are making themselves sick, it is all mind over matter. But could this cause a cold sore?
The answer is maybe-yes, let me explain.
Dr Fances Cohen (PhD) conducted a study on the link between stress and moods and the recurrence of oral and genital herpes breakouts. They studied the effects of short term and long-term stresses with 58 women (20-44 years) who had a history of outbreaks with at least one the in the 6 months.
For a short-term stressors examples included flying on an airplane, vandalism victim, broken bones. They stayed away from bouts of illness as this is a trigger for an outbreak. Long-term stressors were more persistent like worrying about a relative, job security, and financial worries.
What they found was the more persistent the stress the increased chance of a herpes outbreaks the following week and an increased occurrence after participants experienced their highest stress the previous months.
"There were no significant associations between recurrence and short-term stress, life events, depressive mood, anger, or phase of menstrual cycle," says Cohen. "Persistent stressors and highest level of anxiety [caused] genital herpes recurrence, whereas transient mood states, short-term stressors, and life-changing events did not."
Short term stress does not really appear to increase a herpes outbreak, but a long-term stress does increase your chances of getting a cold sore or a genital herpes outbreak.
Thinking about a cold sore will not make one appear but the long-term stresses of worrying may cause one.
What can we do manage it?
The great news about us is that we have so many options available to us.
Draw or exercise if that is something that relaxes you. For myself I tend to wind down after 10 to 15 min meditation to some chilled music like this.
Whatever it is you need to do, take the time to take care of yourself.