This study was done to review the literature concerning the influence of minor and major stress factors on onset and course of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and fibromyalgia syndrome (FS). Major life events and chronic minor stress seem to be very important factors in JCA and are significantly associated with the onset of the disease. With respect to RA and FS, stress may be a provoking factor but the data in the literature are equivocal. However, during the course of the disease, minor stress aggravates SLE, FS, JCA, and RA. Patients with FS and RA may profit from phsychological therapies. Optimistic and confronting coping strategies were found most frequently and perceived to be most effective. Very important for psychological function is the social background, especially the functioning of the family is of outstanding importance for clinical and psychological outcome.
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