Relationshipbetween Stress and Physical Illness
Relationshipbetween Stress and Physical Illness
Inrecent times, there is increased awareness of the harmful effects ofstress on our physical health. This has led to the substantial amountof study being carried out to show the association between stress andphysical illness. Previous research confirms that stress iscontributes primarily to both the initiation and progression ofphysical illnesses. The vulnerability to stress varies from oneindividual to the other, and several factors influence one`ssusceptibility to stress. These factors include genetic weakness,coping mechanism, personality, and social support system. Studiesshow that temporary stress boosts the immune system, but chronicstress imposes adverse effects on the immune regime of an individualand eventually illnesses manifest. The presence of chronic stressamplifies the levels catecholamine and suppressor T cells, which inturn weakens the body’s immunity, thus, increases the danger ofviral infection. Additionally, presence of stress in overweightindividuals raises the chances of them having diabetes mellitus sinceit alters the insulin needs. Consequently, stress interferes with theconcentration of acid in the stomach and this leads to peptic ulcersand stress ulcers.
Stressis referred to as a process through which excessive environmentaldemand strains an individual’s adaptability, which results todemands on both on emotional as well as biological systems thatplaces one at a risk of physical illnesses(Thoits,2013).Things that cause the onset of stress is referred to as stressors.Stress has an impact on everyone, be it the young and elderly,wealthy and less privileged (Thoits,2013).Stress is an everyday unpleasant fact, and it is up to us to findways of dealing with it. The presence of chronic stress increases thelevels catecholamine and suppressor T cells, which eventually weakensthe immune system, thus, increases the risk of viral contamination.Stress triggers the onset of various physical illnesses such asAsthma, diabetes, ulcers, high blood pressure, headaches, and othertypes of chronic pain (Hillman,2016).
Therelationship between stress and physical illness is a complicated onesince the vulnerability to stress varies from one individual to thenext. Such that a stressful factor cause illness in one person andcannot cause the disease to another. For an illness to arise out ofstress several factors such as coping mechanism, genetic variation,type of personality and social support have to interact withstressful events (Thoits, 2013). When confronted with a problem, itis our responsibility to determine the seriousness of the problem andevaluate if we are equipped with the necessary resources to cope withthe problem. In cases where the resources are not enough to deal withthe challenges, we will perceive ourselves as being under stress, andour reaction to the situation will make the disparity in oursusceptibility to physical illnesses and overall well-being (Thoits,2013).
Physicalillness is often linked to stress because of the body’s biologicalreaction system dealing with stress. From the several types ofresearch conducted, it is evident that a large number of human beingchronic stress coping strategies result in an increase in gastriclesions tendencies and weakens the immune defense system.
Thestudy of stress is complex, and it is hard to come up with a concretedefinition of stress. In general, stress is a stimulation thathappens when the external environmental demand exceed theindividual`s capability to react. Additionally, it can be defined asthe physical response of a body to potential threats (Mohsin& Wahab, 2013).There are four sources of stress, and these include environment,social stressors, physiological and thoughts perceived by brain.Environment presents one with an intense and competing demand to meetsuch as noise, weather, traffic, crime, and substandard housing.Social stressors this is due to the roles we play such as parents,caregiver, and employee. These stressors include financialconstraints, disagreements, divorce, loss of a loved one and tightdeadlines (Mohsin& Wahab, 2013).Physiological, it consists of situations and circumstances affectingour bodies and they are illness, aging, menopause, accidents, poornutrition, and lack of sleep. Thoughts, the brain, perceive andinterpret stressful, painful, or difficult circumstances. Thus, itdetermines if the situations are a problem or not. However, theresults are not always negative (Mohsin& Wahab, 2013).
Theretwo types of stress. First is eustress, which is a positive stressormainly evident in athletes and it increases motivation. The secondtype is distress, which is a harmful, stressful situation thatprimarily disrupts bodily state and occurs when the stress exceedsour ability to cope, causes wear and tear on the body system, andcauses biological system problems. According to Wike (2015), thereare two cognitive methods of appraising stress and these are primaryand secondary assessment process. The primary assessment processhelps in determining the meaning of the stressor, and potential harmto an individual. Secondary appraisal process, which assists indetermining resources to use in the event of harm (Wike, 2015).
Theterm physical illness is used in health psychology. It refers to avariety of health conditions such as hypertension, coronary heartdisease, asthma, and chronic headaches (Hillman,2016).Health psychology uses indicators to determine what an individual issuffering from. They can observe and diagnose, or they can questionthe patient on the symptom they are experiencing. These helpclinicians in determining the causes and instructing on the bestmethod of treating them.
Stressand the Immune System
Humanbeing immune system is very susceptible to stress and our knowledgeon the relationship between the brain, and the immune reaction isderived from the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) (Thoits,2013).The study involves the interaction of the brain, central nervoussystem, and the body’s defense against outside contamination andaberrant cell division. There is the kind of stress that last for ashort time and usually helps in redistributing cells in thebloodstream in a helpful manner. However, chronic stress tends tolast days, and it causes damaging changes in the immune system.Moreover, the longer the stress lasts, the more the damages. Chronicstress imposes an immunosuppressive effect that suppresses the body’simmunity, thus, leading to the production of excessivecorticosteroid, which causes an disparity in corticosteroid levelsand weakens the immunocompetence (Thoits,2013).The weakening of the immune system cause strain various body parts,for instance, the dwindling of the thymus due to its failure toproduce T cells needed to arouse them.
TheLink between Stress and Physical Illnesses
Effectsof stress on the immune system are both harmful and beneficial.Short-term stress serves to boost the immune system and prepare it tobe adaptive to harm or infections. However, long-term stress causesharmful effects to the body immune system. In those instances wherethe individual is sick, stress only serves to worsen the situation.
Effectsof Stress on the Digestive System
Manypeople often suffer from stomachache or diarrhea especially when theyare stressed. Stressful events trigger the release of hormones thatslows the emptying of stomach and release of stomach acid.Consequently, it stimulates the colon to empty the digestive system,and the process causes one to experience pain or diarrhea. Thehormones also cause one to experience excessive belching, fartingwhich increases one`s vulnerability to getting Crohn’s illness,which is an inflammation of the colon lining membrane(Thoits,2013).It can also increase one`s appetite causing obesity, and this leadsto further complications such as heart disease, stroke, or arthritis.
Effectsof Stress on Cardiovascular System
Mostpeople respond to stressful events by an increase in the heart rate,which in turn increase the blood pressure that causes certain bloodvessels to contract while others are dilating. Chronic stress causesthe release of hormones that raises one`s heart rate causing chestpains and an increase in the blood pressure as well as blood lipidlevels(D’Andrea, Sharma, & Spinazzola, 2011). Fattyfood substances contain high levels of cholesterol in the blood,which cause atherosclerosis, which can eventually lead to a heartattack. According toD’Andrea, Sharma, & Spinazzola (2016),chronic stress induces mast cell activation and elevated levels ofhistamine, which indicate higher chances of developing coronaryillnesses in the future. Mast cell activation plays a crucial role inneuroinflammatory illnesses which include migraines, arthritis,irritable bowel syndrome and this is evident that dysfunction in theimmune system triggers the development of other port trauma diseases.Stress also leads to prolonged cardiovascular hyperresponsivity(D’Andrea, Sharma, & Spinazzola, 2016).
Effectsof stress on Musculoskeletal System
Inthe presence of stress, muscle contract. Many people especially theelderly or those who spend most of their time sitting oftenexperience pain in their necks, shoulders as well as the lower back(D’Andrea,Sharma, & Spinazzola, 2016).Additionally, stress causes muscular twitches, headaches due totension in the muscles, migraines, and temporomandibular dysfunction(TMJ). Stress also causes skin disorders such as psoriasis to worsen,and it is considered as the major cause of asthma attacks andstrokes.
Therehas been significant interest in the relationship between stress andcancer. Studies show there is an increase in incidences of earlydeaths especially of cancer patients who experience the loss of apartner or a loved one. Researches on women with breast cancer haveshown a significant increase in the illness among those whoexperience traumatic life experiences or loss several years prior totheir diagnosis. However, most cancer has been developing in the bodyand is only discovered after diagnosis. Therefore, it is notconclusive that chronic stress triggers the onset of cancer andfurther research is yet to be done on the relationship betweenemotional stress and the transition of the normal cell into cancerouscells. Studies further suggest that stress and lack of social supportsystem increase the risk of a man developing prostate cancer (Thoits,2013).From the research conducted by the State University of New York, menwith high-stress levels and lack a fulfilling relationship withfamily and friend have high levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)and the possibility of having the antigen was tripple for men withchronic stress. Thus, a man psychological state can trigger thedevelopment of prostate disease.
Deathdue to Stress Related Diseases
Therate of morbidity and mortality is rising in an increasing manner.Psychological stress is cited as the major contributor to the sixprincipal causes of death in the America: accidental injuries,cancer, coronary heart diseases, and respiratory disorder such asasthma, liver cirrhosis, and suicide. Statistics from Meridian StressManagement Consultancy show that approximately 180,000 individualsdie from illnesses associated with stress (Thoits, 2013).Additionally, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.Sestimate that about 75% of doctor visits constitute of patientssuffering from stress-related disorders such as a headache, stomachupset, sleep problems, fatigue, and accidents.
Dealingpositively with stressful events eliminates the development orprolonging of physical illnesses. Individuals should apply thefollowing in coping with short-term stress bouts. They should dobreathing exercises, massage, meditation, progressive musclerelaxation, indulge in their hobbies, listen to good music, and spendtime with friend and families. While those dealing with, long-termstress should adopt these measures.
Changesin their Health Practices
Oftenyou hear people saying they want to change and lead healthylifestyles, such as keeping fit. There are several ways of achievingthis and it involves eating healthy, sleeping well, avoiding drugssuch as alcohol and cigarettes, and exercising. Additionally, theycan do regular doctor checkups, self- breast examination, andexercise careful driving. Research shows that people who experienceelevated levels of stress are prone to engaging in unhealthyactivities such as drunk driving which eventually causes accidents,poor health diet, lack of exercise of which many become obese(Hillman,2016).This lowers their self-esteem and eventually causes stress on theindividuals. These unhealthy behaviors cause trauma or diseases.Cigarettes cause heart disease, ulcers, and periodontal diseaseswhile alcohol causes liver failure and other bacterial infections.Thus, it is imperative for people to practice a healthy lifestyle toavoid physical illnesses.
Adherenceto Medical Advice
Itis important for the patient to adhere to doctor’s advice, forinstance, patient with cancer are advised not to smoke or consumealcohol while those with diabetes are supposed to monitor and controltheir blood glucose levels by injecting themselves with insulin.Moreover, following this advice is paramount to their health andsurvival (Mohsin& Wahab, 2013).Failure to observe these measures under stress can cause adverse andlong-lasting illnesses as it influences their immune system.
Thisis an activity undertaken by the individual experiencing symptoms ofillness, by defining their state of health in search of a remedy.They include talking about the symptoms to families, friends, andclinicians and seeking help in the form of advice or medication(Hillman, 2016).
Implicationon Medical Practitioners
Thisinformation might be helpful to health professionals and individuals.Awareness should be made on the impacts of stress on the health ofpersons. This will help doctors when diagnosing patients withmultiple or unexplained diagnoses and knowing that chronic stresstriggered the onset of the illness. This knowledge empowers doctorsin coming up with methods to treat the patients either through stressintervention methods or ways to reduce stress, such as yoga,expressive writing and communicating the stress impact on theirbodies and placing more emphasis on stress reduction in their lives(Mohsin& Wahab, 2013).
Theresearch confirms that stress causes harmful health conditions sinceit alters the body’s immune system. However, it is also evidentthat short-term stress boosts a person immunity system as it preparesan individual to amass and surmount a challenge such as adaptivereaction to harm or infection. Nevertheless, long-lasting stresscauses too much damage, and the immune system eventually breakdown ifthe person does not have control over the events. Additionally,stress is seen to cause massive damage to the liver, digestivesystem, cardiovascular and the immune regime of an individual.Duration of the stress plays a fundamental role in an individualphysical health and well-being. Such that, the long-lasting thestress, the more the immune function shifts from adaptability toharmful, first in the cellular immunity and eventually to broadlevels in the immune system. The elderly and the sick are moresuscepitible to stress-related physical illnesses, as their immunesystem is weak.
Therefore,it is imperative for medical practitioners to advise patientssuffering from stress-related diseases to practices healthylifestyles as well as adopting positive stress coping mechanisms.More so, they should evaluate the needs of their patientsindividually, treat them symptomatically, and emphasize on theremoval of the stressor as the most efficient form of treatment.
Recommendationsfor dealing with Stress
Toreduce the impact of stress on an individual’s bodily health, it isimperative for individual to adopt positive stress coping mechanismssuch as engaging in physical activity such as joining the gym, takinglong walks as this helps in clearing one’s mind (McCaffrey,& Liehr, 2015).In addition, individuals should maintain positive social groups,where they can discuss matters stressing them since a “problemshared a problem solved” or seek the help of therapists when facedwith stressful situations.Moreover,to cope with stress, individuals can write down the issueshighlighting them by use of expressive writing (Hillman,2016).It is particularly helpful to persons showing symptoms of asthma.Another important stress coping mechanism is talking to the religiousleader and praying. More research should be conducted on therelationship between stress and breast cancer.
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