Can Mono Come Back With Stress? How Mental Health Impacts Physical Wellness

Updated December 06, 2019

Reviewer Aaron Horn

Mono. What is it? Mono's longer name is mononucleosis, and it is an infectious virus transmitted through saliva. You may have heard mono referred to as the "kissing disease." When you kiss someone, you're taking in and passing on saliva; technically, you can catch mono this way. However, you can also catch mono by being around someone who is coughing, sneezing, or if you share a drink or food with them. Mono is contagious; however, it's not as infectious as some other things. For example, did you know that the common cold is more contagious than mononucleosis? It's true! With that said, having mono is difficult. It can be exhausting and stressful to your mental and physical health. Let's take a look at the link between mental health and physical wellness.


Who is at Risk for Mono?

Certain people are more at risk of contracting mono than others. Those who have compromised immune systems are more likely to contract the condition than others. Mono is exhausting, and stress can contribute to feeling fatigued. You may be wondering who is at risk for mono, and could it be you? People who contract mono are typically young adults or adolescents. Children with mono often have fewer symptoms, and it can go unrecognized, whereas, with adolescents, the symptoms are more surface-level. Here are some signs that you might see with mono:

  • Sore throat
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Exhaustion (not just fatigued, but too tired to conduct normal daily activities)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in an individual's neck and armpits
  • Tonsillitis or swollen tonsils
  • Headache
  • Swollen or sensitive spleen
  • Fever
  • A pervasive sore throat that doesn't get better with antibiotics or other treatment

The mononucleosis virus does have an incubation period. That period lasts from around 4-6 weeks. However, when it comes to children, this period is significantly shorter. The initial symptoms of mono can be as simple as a sore throat or fever. The most persistent and visible sign of mono is exhaustion or fatigue. The combination of a sore throat with exhaustion can lead a physician to test for or diagnose mononucleosis. If you think that you may have mono, it's essential to see a medical professional. Getting these symptoms looked at is crucial. Perhaps you have mono, or it could be something else. Regardless, knowing what you have will guide you as to how to best take care of yourself during this time.

The Sore Throat

One of the hallmarks of mono is the intense and debilitating sore throat. You might think you have strep throat or a severe infection. However, if your sore throat persists, and the strep test is negative, it may be worth getting tested for mono. Having a sore throat could mean that you also have tonsillitis, which can be extremely painful. Talk to your medical provider if you have a persistent sore throat. There is a blood test that can confirm if you have mono. Sometimes the test will come up negative, but if the symptoms persist (including that painful sore throat), it may be worth getting retested in a few weeks. Remember to consult a trained medical professional to discuss these matters rather than trying to diagnose your symptoms by yourself.


Mononucleosis and Epstein Barr: How are the Two Connected?

Mono is associated commonly with the Epstein Barr virus. The Epstein-Barr virus is also called Human gammaherpesvirus 4. It's one of the human herpesvirus types. Eptein Barr in the herpes family, and is one of eight common viruses. It's seen in many people and commonly associated with those who have mono. The Epstein Barr virus can cause infectious mononucleosis, but it's not the only cause of mono. Other infections can trigger it, but Epstein Barr is the one that directly connects to mono most often. Symptoms of mono can be excruciating; however, no medicine cures mono. The treatment for mono is just time and rest.

Rest is the Medicine for Mono

Stress can make mono worse, which is why it's crucial to take time to decompress when you have the condition. There's no formal medicine that treats mono. It's up to you to treat your body well by consistently resting. If you listen to your body, it will tell you when you need to take it easy. People who have mono often have to limit their physical activity for the first couple of weeks of the infection. They find that their exhaustion levels are high, and their body wants them to take it easy. Typically, mono resolves by itself after some time where people take care of themselves and rest their bodies. However, relapse is possible. There are potential complications that can occur with mono. Here are some of them:

  • Enlargement of your spleen
  • Anemia
  • Liver problems
  • Hepatitis
  • Jaundice
  • Nervous system complications such as Guillain barre syndrome

If you have an autoimmune condition or a compromised immune system, mono can be more severe. When you're discussing these conditions with your doctor, it's essential to be transparent about what medical issues you have besides mono. That way, you can get the best treatment. The Epstein Barr virus might cause severe symptoms in people who have compromised immune systems. That includes individuals with HIV or AIDS, and people taking immunosuppressant drugs.


Preventing Mono

Unfortunately, mono is difficult to prevent. You can take precautions regarding exposure to germs that cause the infection. Still, it's hard to prevent mono. You may not know that someone has it unless they share that information with you. They might also be unaware of it. That said, there are some preventative measures that you can take. Don't share drinks with people as well as forks, spoons, and so on. If you know that you have mono, don't share utensils or kiss people during this time because you don't want to give it to someone else.

Stress and Mono

Stress can exacerbate many different physical conditions, including mono. People have found in various studies that stress can make people more susceptible to catching a virus and that in addition to making you more likely to get sick, it can also make you stay sick for longer. Stress can mean a lot of things. It can be anxiety, grief, relationship breakups or divorce. It can even be physical stressors like excessive exercise performed without taking the time to rest and recuperate. Chronic stress has a likelihood of causing mono relapse. There was a study where 276 healthy adults were evaluated to determine why they have chronic stress. In that study, it was noted that these adults experienced cold-like symptoms and that stress made their infections worse. It's known that stress can make pre-existing infections worse. You put pressure on your immune system during periods of stress and it can reactivate infections that were previously present such as mononucleosis. Viral infections get cleared by a body response called cell-mediated immunity. In human stress studies, researchers noted that psychological stress directly hinders the function of your immune system. There is a risk, if you already have an infectious illness, that stress could cause it to relapse. That's why it is important to manage your stress levels as much as you can during recovery from an illness and in your general daily life.

What is Stress?

There's a difference between anxiety and stress. Anxiety is a chronic medical condition that impacts a person's ability to function socially and on a day-to-day basis at school or work. Stress is a condition that is directly related to situations and transitions in a person's life. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress is one of the leading health problems in the United States. Stressors are a normal part of life; you might feel stress as a result of your job, relationships, family or financial issues. Symptoms of stress can vary depending on the individual, but it's important to note that you can have physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional ones. When you're stressed out, you may feel the fight or flight response, which happens when adrenaline and cortisol release into your body. During this time, your blood flow increases, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure and blood sugar could also increase. If sustained over some time, this response can cause adverse health effects. Be mindful of what's happening in your mind and body when you're under stress. That way you can mediate the effects. You don't want to reactivate the mono virus or any other viruses as a result of stress.

Some people find it difficult to gauge when they're under stress. How do you know? Here are some symptoms of stress:

  • Insomnia, trouble falling asleep, or trouble staying asleep
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as stomach aches
  • Body pain and tension
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression or depressive mood
  • Food or eating issues
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Addictive behaviors, obsessions, or compulsive behaviors
  • Rage or anger
  • Feeling apathetic or overwhelmed
  • Being irritable

Causes of Stress


Stress is a natural part of our lives, and it's unavoidable. There could be many different reasons that a person experiences stress. There are daily life stressors that most of us have felt such as issues with interpersonal relationships, jobs, and school. There are other stressors, too, such as getting a divorce, moving, being diagnosed with a severe mental or physical illness, having a baby, planning a wedding, and so on. Various life changes - even good ones can contribute to stress. Regardless of what the trigger is, it's important to be able to identify your stressors and work to manage your stress. Stress is always going to be a part of our lives, and without natural human stress responses that we experience, we wouldn't be alive. With that said, the effects of overabundant stress responses in a person's body are authentic and can cause long-term issues, so it's essential to learn how to cope.

Coping with Stress: Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms and Healthy Ones

It's not easy to manage stress levels, and some individuals struggle to find healthy ways to cope with life stressors. Some people have difficulty dealing with their stress and the turn to maladaptive ways of managing it. It may not be their fault that they're picking behaviors that are toxic, and unhelpful. They might not know how to handle these stressful life moments. However, there are ways that they can stop choosing these self-destructive patterns with the right interventions and help from a mental health professional. Certain things can be more harmful than they are helpful when it comes to dealing with your stress levels.

Here are some unhealthy ways to cope with stress:

  • Substance abuse such as coping through alcohol or drug use
  • Compulsive spending
  • Self-harm
  • Toxic relationships
  • Gambling
  • Reckless behavior

When you find that you're involved in using these maladaptive behaviors to deal with stress, it's vital to seek help. That's where therapy can be of great use to people. When you're dealing with long-term stress, whether that's anxiety, interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, a death in the family or a divorce, stress can be extremely debilitating. You can seek the help of a therapist. That person is there to help you navigate those stress levels. Maybe you're trying to deal with a chronic condition like mono, and you don't want to become sick again. Talk to your therapist and develop a wellness plan.

How Stress Can Affect Your Mind and Body


Chronic stress can affect your mind and body. You may feel that there's no light at the end of the tunnel. You do not see the relief on the horizon, and that's scary. You're afraid to feel like this forever. You might have anger problems, chronic pain, or depression. It's imperative to confront these issues. Online therapy is a great place to start dealing with stress and find ways to cope. Search the network of BetterHelp therapists today, and find someone ready to support you getting help for your stress levels.

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