Why Some Fevers May Be Stress-Related

A new study has taken a closer look at the often misunderstood phenomenon of psychogenic fever, a psychosomatic condition triggered by emotional events or chronic stress that induces a high body temperature. 

“While this condition is known in the literature, only a few doctors in the world study it and treat patients with psychogenic fevers,” said Professor Andrej Romanovsky at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Arizona and the editor-in-chief of the journal Temperature.

One of these physicians is Dr. Takakazu Oka of the Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences. He specializes in psychosomatic medicine and treats patients with psychogenic fevers. In his review article published in Temperature, Oka introduces his recent findings from his research and clinical experience regarding the disease.

Up until now, there has been no epidemiological study of psychogenic fevers, according to Oka. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate how many patients are affected by the condition.

He said complaints from patients are of the fever itself, along with the symptoms from the high temperature, symptoms from the stress, plus the symptoms from the psychiatric diseases that the patient may suffer from.

“High body temperature is just one of the symptoms induced or exacerbated by stress,” said Oka. “Patients ask for the treatment of fever, not just their temperature be normalized, but all symptoms to be treated.”

Several treatment options are currently available, but, in general, they are similar to the treatments of other stress-related diseases and not specific to psychogenic fever. However, Oka believes that a breakthrough in treatment will occur fairly soon, as more research is being conducted.

Instead of using the traditional term “psychogenic fever,” Oka proposes the condition be named “functional hyperthermia.” Using the word “functional” would prevent stigmatizing these patients and suggests both stress-related pathology and impaired functioning of the autonomic nervous system which is important to convey in treatment of the condition.

Source: Taylor & Francis

Woman with a fever photo by shutterstock.