The Let Down Effect

The Let Down Effect is a condition that leads to illness or symptoms following stressful events, such as conflict, time pressured work projects, or school exams. It can even occur after positive events, such as a wedding or a sports event. It frequently occurs on or after weekends, holidays, vacations, or after retirement.


It has been known for some time that stress can lead to illness. But if stress leads to illness, then you would expect that people would always become sick while under stress. Yet, a large subset of people can, at times, find themselves becoming sick or developing physical symptoms after the stressful period is over – often when they least expect it!


During periods of stress, the body attempts to protect us by boosting the immune response and accelerating the rate of inflammation in the body. Once the stress is over, we typically take a break from the hectic pace and may want to spend more time relaxing or sleeping. After all, isn’t relaxation healthy? But when we de-stress too rapidly, it can lead to biochemical changes that actually result in a weakened immunity, leaving us vulnerable to illness or physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach disorders, panic attacks, and other pain reactions. When this occurs, we have experienced The Let Down Effect. Our best chance for beating the Let Down Effect is to relax in a way that keeps the immune system on alert.


The following conditions can be related to the Let Down Effect:

The Common Cold and Influenza (The Flu)

Depression and Anxiety


Stomach Pain

Panic Attacks

Binge Eating

Skin Outbreaks

Allergic Reactions

Fatigue or Tiredness


Dr. Schoen was the first to publish on the Let Down Effect in his book titled ‘When Relaxation is Hazardous to Your Health’.

Marc Schoen, Ph.D.

Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine

UCLA Geffen School of Medicine


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