Stress-Related Diseases

Liu, Y.-Z., Wang, Y.-X., & Jiang, C.-L. (2017). Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 316.


While modernization has dramatically increased lifespan, it has also witnessed that the nature of stress has changed dramatically. Chronic stress result failures of homeostasis thus lead to various diseases such as atherosclerosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and depression. However, while 75%–90% of human diseases is related to the activation of stress system, the common pathways between stress exposure and pathophysiological processes underlying disease is still debatable. Chronic inflammation is an essential component of chronic diseases. Additionally, accumulating evidence suggested that excessive inflammation plays critical roles in the pathophysiology of the stress-related diseases, yet the basis for this connection is not fully understood. Here we discuss the role of inflammation in stress-induced diseases and suggest a common pathway for stress-related diseases that is based on chronic mild inflammation. This framework highlights the fundamental impact of inflammation mechanisms and provides a new perspective on the prevention and treatment of stress- related diseases.


Botella, C., Garcia-Palacios, A., Vizcaino, Y., Herrero, R., Banos, R. M., & Belmonte, M. A. (2013).  Virtual reality in the treatment of fibromyalgia: A pilot study. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(3), 215-223. Doi: 10.1089/cyber.2012.1572.


This was a pilot study of six women with fibromyalgia (FM). The intervention consisted of ten sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with VR to enhance relaxation and mindfulness skills. Improvement was seen with regards to functional status related to pain, depression, positive affect, and pain coping. While this was a pilot study in a small sample, the authors felt that VR was a key contribution to the observed results.


Witkiewitz, K., Bowen, S., Douglas, H., & Hsu, S. (2013). Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for substance craving. Addictive Behaviors, 38, 1563-1571,


Craving, defined as the subjective experience of an urge or desire to use substances, has been identified in clinical, laboratory, and preclinical studies as a significant predictor of substance use, substance use disorder, and relapse following treatment for a substance use disorder. Bowen and colleagues found that individuals who received MBRP reported significantly lower levels of craving following treatment, in comparison to a treatment-as-usual control group, which mediated subsequent substance use outcomes. Results indicated that a latent factor representing scores on measures of acceptance, awareness, and non-judgment significantly mediated the relation between receiving MBRP and self-reported levels of craving immediately following treatment.


Gold, J. I., Belmont, K. A., & Thomas, D. A. (2007). The neurobiology of virtual reality pain attenuation.  CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 536-544. Doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9993


This is a review of existing literature on use of VR for pain, pain neurobiology, and how VR impacts pain system to produce analgesia.  Pain perception relies not only on neural networks, but on factors from molecular to psychological to social. VR offers the ability of addressing pain at all of these levels in non-pharmacologic ways.  Immersive VR has been shown to be effective as a distraction technique for changing burn dressings, starting IV lines, dental procedures, and for decreasing phantom limb pain, to name a few examples.


Navarro-Haro MV, López-del-Hoyo Y, Campos D, Linehan MM, Hoffman HG, García-Palacios A, et al. (2017) Meditation experts try Virtual Reality Mindfulness: A pilot study evaluation of the feasibility and acceptability of Virtual Reality to facilitate mindfulness practice in people attending a Mindfulness conference. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187777.


After VR, participants reported significantly less sadness, anger, and anxi- ety, and reported being significantly more relaxed. Participants reported a moderate to strong illusion of going inside the 3D computer generated world (i.e., moderate to high “pres- ence” in VR) and showed high acceptance of VR as a technique to practice mindfulness. These results show encouraging preliminary evidence of the feasibility and acceptability of using VR to practice mindfulness based on clinical expert feedback.