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Stress: A Factor Leading To Illness?

1970 words - 8 pages

“Stress” is a common experience. People talk about it when they are busy finishing tasks and meeting deadlines. Some people are particularly vulnerable to stress in face of threat, failure or humiliation. Others become stressed when they stumble upon things which are associated to physical threats, such as snakes. Many psychologists define stress as a state of emotional and physical arousal that people experience in situations they perceive danger or threat. Hence, stress arises when a situation is appraised as threatening or demanding (Everly & Lating, 2013; Cohen, Janicki-Deverts & Gregeory 2007; Vannitallie, 2002). In those situations, the body perceives the importance of an immediate response without an effective coping strategy. Because of this, people experience negative emotions, changes in physiology and behavioural patterns. If not managed appropriately, stress could lead to serious problems. Exposure to chronic stress can promote both physical illnesses, such as heart diseases, and mental illnesses (Ogden, 2007; Herbert & Cohen 1994). To understand how stress improves the chances of getting illnesses, the mechanisms utilized by the body in order to adjust to the stressful stimuli, and the ways in which the adaptations of the body can go astray, must be considered. To this very day, two physiological pathways are known to demonstrate the extraordinary responsiveness of the body to stressful stimulus, the neuroendocrine response and the immune system response. These pathways demonstrate the negative influence of stress upon physical health by directly effecting biological processes, which in turn escalates susceptibility to diseases, or through changing the patterns of behavior, which increases the risk of becoming ill (Everly & Lating, 2013; Vannitallie, 2002).
When a person perceives a stressful stimulus, the body experience number of changes that enhance both physiological and emotional arousal. This happens because the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) becomes activated. The stress appraisal, followed by an event of the environment may cause the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to signal the heart to beat rapidly, the energy system to make more glucose available, and blood flow to be rerouted towards muscles (Cohen, Janicki-Deverts & Gregeory 2007; Glaser & Glaser, 2005). Breathing rate increases, pupils dilate, and rate of perspiration increase. This reaction is known as the flight or fight response, since it energizes the body to either confront or flee from the stress provoking stimuli or threat (Ogdan, 2007).
Another pathway used by the sympathetic nervous system in stress response is the endocrine system. It comprise of glands that secrete hormones directly into bloodstream. The endocrine system undergoes domino effect during stress response (Herbert & Cohen, 1994). At first, the hypothalamus (a small structure in the brain) releases a hormone that rouses nearby pituitary gland to produce...

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