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Psoriatic Arthritis Triggers and Traumatic Events

If you’ve spent any time at all surfing the web looking for information about the causes of psoriatic arthritis then you likely know that there are no clear answers. The numbers, the data, and percentages are all so confusing. You can spend hours searching and not be one bit closer to any real information.

Life isn’t black and white

Nothing against doctors and researchers, but they tend to see things in black and white. They look at quantifiable numbers on spreadsheets and come up with percentages, facts, and figures. But what happens when you have events in your life that are not able to be quantified, measured, or averaged? For example, how can you measure the impact of the death of a loved one? How can you assign a value to the stress of a car accident or to the emotional abuse by a parent?

These things, these life events or “stressors” simply don’t compute or translate to a spreadsheet. Which is why, I suppose, it is so difficult to really get any straight answers about the relationship between traumatic events and the development (or cause) of psoriatic arthritis.


There are some theories that suggest autoimmune conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis, are “triggered” by traumatic events. Some “suggested traumatic events” could be anything from car accidents to emotional or physical abuse. These events do tend to share one common thread, stress.

When it comes to research related to the possible causes of psoriatic arthritis, words such as “likely,” “chances are,” higher risk,” and “linked” are not only ambiguous, but very confusing and misleading. They are the only terms we have to attempt to answer our most pressing questions. Asking these questions, Why? and What caused this? are very normal. However, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but sadly, there really aren’t any clear answers.

Traumatic events

If we’ve lived long enough, we have probably all had “traumatic events” in our lives of one sort or another. So that if you think back, you might be able to link physical manifestations of psoriatic arthritis (pain and inflammation) with an emotional trigger from a traumatic event. Even moreso, you might be able to think back to a physical event, such as an accident or injury that you believe “triggered” or caused your psoriatic arthritis. But that still leads us back to the original problem. There is no way (yet at least) to definitively measure or prove the causation.

Nothing has been directly linked or proven to be the cause of psoriatic arthritis, or any other autoimmune condition for that matter. However, it is indisputable that having traumatic events and other psoriatic arthritis triggers in our lives puts additional stress on our bodies thereby putting us at greater risk for flares and other physical symptoms of that stress. In addition, we are at a much greater risk for developing other autoimmune conditions as well as other associated disorders such as fibromyalgia.

What’s the big picture here?

But the reality is that sometimes we as patients sometimes know a little more than our doctors. We have a different story to tell. One that doesn’t involve spreadsheets filled with facts and figures. Our story is a little bit more than that. We know that what we experience in our daily lives greatly impacts how our bodies feel. We are able to draw conclusions about the relationship between our experiences and our illness. Sometimes, we do a better job of seeing the “big picture.”

So while there isn’t clear evidence about the relationship between psoriatic arthritis triggers and traumatic events, some of us might know different. Our lives may tell a different story. One that can’t be measured by doctors or explained by researchers.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Rojo
    2 months ago

    I am SO glad this topic has been brought up. It is one near and dear to my heart. But first, I would never be confused with a person of medical training or an academian. With that said, I do believe there is a definite connection between trauma and autoimmune diseases. What initially drew my attention to the connection was learning the physical and emotional damage caused by having ones adrenal gland constantly switched on. The adrenal medulla regulates our response to stress. Anxiety is a highlighted feature of chronic stress disorders. If one has panic or a severe anxiety condition, the fight-or-flight switch is on a lot of the time. This leads to a chronic system flooding of cortisol and other hormones. The adrenal medulla plays a significant role in regulating the immune system and thereby regulating inflammation. Given time, a chronic flood of cortisol can lead to autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation problems.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m seeing the face of Kurt Vonnegut in a bowl of oatmeal. To me these factors interlink. That and the huge number of people diagnosed with PsA who seem to believe stress triggers their symptoms into turbo mode.

    Thank you Leanne for introducing the topic.

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