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When that process is reduced, many physical ailments have the opportunity to develop in organs that are not functioning optimally because of the reduction in the rate and efficiency of cellular repair. Similarly, the bones themselves can become more fragile and easily fractured because natural bone loss continues while cellular repair and new bone-cell formation slows (Sarno, 1998).
Body fat storage typically increases during prolonged periods of exposure to stress because one of the necessary physiological responses during the evolutionary development of the species was the ability to store calories in times of food resource scarcity (Reding & Wijnberg, 2001). In modern times, the body cannot distinguish between general mental stress and mental stress caused by famine; and as a result, hormones and enzymes responsible for breaking down and burning consumed food calories for energy are reduced while those responsible for ensuring long-term survival in terms of food shortages increase. In modern times, that is one reason why mental conditions such as clinical depression often also result in unwanted weight gain. The other reason is that increased appetite is another part of the physiological response to stress, since consuming as many calories as possible is strategically important in times of famine (Reding & Wijnberg, 2001).
Finally, there are also psychosomatically caused physical ailments associated with mental stress. Some of the most common include lumbar back strains and other skeletal tissue problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) because those disorders are largely caused by reduced blood flow to the large muscles of the lower back, the tendons of the arms, and other connective tissues, such as those of the jaw muscle attachments (Sarno, 1998). That is why anxiety and stress often cause muscle spasms and discomfort related to skeletal structures. Likewise, chronic anxiety can be the cause of digestive disorders resulting from inefficient digestive processes and other physiological changes in acid and digestive enzyme secretions (Riggs & Foa, 2009). In all of these conditions, it is important to note that the physical symptoms of disease caused or triggered by mental states are no less "real" than diseases and conditions resulting organically without any connection to psychological stress (Sarno, 1998).
The Influence of Physical Body on Mental Health
The connection between mind and body also works in the other direction as well. Various physical conditions can be the principal cause of psychiatric ailments just as mental conditions can cause physical symptoms and ailments of the body (
Probst, 2010). In that regard, physical conditions that cause chronic pain are often the cause of clinical depression, as are other physical ailments that detract from the perceived quality of life (Reding & Wijnberg, 2001). Memory is also affected by long-term physical ailments because the long-term stress associated with physical discomfort triggers certain aspects of sympathetic nervous system response outlined earlier (Reding & Wijnberg, 2001). Since memory processes are not ordinarily required during emergency or immediately stressful situations, blood flow changes in the brain increase cerebral activity in some areas while decreasing it in other areas, such as those responsible for memory processes (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).
Today, physicians understand that the influence of the mind is so important that questions relating to the patients' state of mind are part of routine diagnostic inquiries, precisely because of the mind-body connection. The failure to consider possible psychological factors can result in missed diagnosis or the prolonged treatment of the physical symptoms of a medical problem instead of treating their underlying psychological cause. That makes appreciating the mind-body and body-mind influence a significant factor in modern healthcare and medical treatment of both physical and mental ailments.
Archer, R. (2005). "Hospitals design stress-reduction treatment to speed recovery."
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Probst, T.M. "Multi-level models of stress and well-being." Stress and Health, Vol. 26
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Reding, K. And Wijnberg, M. "Chronic Stress: A Conceptual Perspective" Families in Society, Vol. 82, No. 4 (2001): 345-354.
Riggs, D. And Foa, L. (2009). Psychological Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder. (In Oxford Handbook of Anxiety and Related Disorders, Antony, M.M. And Stein, M.B. editors,…[continue]
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