Stress can affect body functions
Stress can significantly affect many of the body functions.
The neurochemistry of the stress response is now mainly understood.
In response to a stressor, corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP) are secreted into the hypophyseal portal system and activate neurons of the paraventricular nuclei (PVN) of the hypothalamus. The locus coeruleus and other noradrenergic cell groups of the adrenal medulla and pons, collectively known as the LC/NE system, also become active and use brain epinephrine to execute autonomic and neuroendocrine responses, serving as a global alarm system.
The autonomic nervous system provides the rapid response to stress commonly known as the fight-or-flight response, engaging the sympathetic nervous system and withdrawing the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby enacting cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal, and endocrine changes.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), a major part of the neuroendocrine system involving the interactions of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands, is also activated by release of CRH and AVP. This results in release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary into the general bloodstream, which results in secretion of cortisol and other glucocorticoids from the adrenal cortex. These corticoids involve the whole body in the organism's response to stress and ultimately contribute to the termination of the response via inhibitory feedback.
Stress can significantly affect many of the body's immune systems, and an individual's perceptions of, and reactions to, stress, affecting the interactions between the mental state, nervous and immune systems.
Immune system changes can create more vulnerability to infection, and have been observed to increase the potential for an outbreak of psoriasis for people with this skin disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma, often associated with soldiers, police officers, and other emergency personnel.
Long-term stress can seriously affect one's quality of life and lead to major, sometimes fatal, diseases.
Chronic stress, such as a home environment involving serious marital discord, alcoholism, or child abuse, impairs developmental growth in children by lowering the pituitary gland's production of growth hormone, and is the cause of an anxiety disorder.
Stress may promote the accumulation of visceral fat, which in turn causes hormonal and metabolic changes that contribute to heart disease and other health problems.
Many physicians feel that chronic stress can so overtax an individual's physical resources and ways of coping that cancer, stroke, and heart disease can occur.
Prolonged stress also results in the everyday miseries of headache and allergy, digestive disorders and fatigue, irritable bladder and impotence, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and simple aches and pains.
Researchers exploring the connection between stress and susceptibility to colds exposed stressed individuals (who had experienced a death in the family, become divorced, or had recently moved) to cold viruses and then tested for antibodies a month later. Results indicated that severely stressed individuals were four times more likely to become infected.
It follows that if stress can cause or contribute to illness, then reducing stress should have the opposite effect and perhaps even encourage healing (170).
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