Stress and Disease Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Each of us has our own share of experiences where we find ourselves unable to cope with normal responses. Sometimes, due to circumstances that push both of our minds and bodies to precisely act on things or to meet expectations, we tend to feel that we almost want to give up. Such example in our daily experiences is what we call stress.

Stress is a psychological imbalance, which, if regularly experienced, can affect the bodily functions and can cause drawbacks to one's health. A number of medical research and studies have reached findings explaining the relationship of stress to one's health. A number of negative effects that stress causes to our health were found to be dangerous if the frequency of stressful experiences is not controlled and minimized.

One explanation to the relationship and effect of stress to one's health is indicated in a Body Bulletin's article The Effects of Stress (2003).

The stresses you face in modern life are likely to be psychological -- due to circumstances like work pressure or troubled relationships. But the body reacts as though it were confronting a physical threat. Heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension all rises sharply; the stomach and intestines become disrupted; and blood sugar rises for quick energy. You may feel anxiety, even panic.

This paper is a research on the topic Stress and Disease. Its discussion will be focused on the relationship of stress to health, and how stress can be a risk factor to diseases. This paper will use information from conducted medical research and studies, as well as from available medical literatures. Throughout the discussion, this paper aims to provide information on the following subtopics.

The body's responses to stress

The effects of stress on immune functioning

The diseases caused/endangered by stress

Stress and Our Body

Many are unaware that the emotional stages caused by stress can affect the normal cycle of our body. Emotions such as depression, fear, or rage, can trigger our body's response system to divert into unhealthy activities. For instance, a depression caused by stress draws a person to smoke more, eat unhealthy foods, drink too much alcohol, and do other activities that can be harmful to health and body.

Several research and studies have been conducted to determine the physiological pathway of stress in our body. The aim is to design solutions and prevention treatments to ward off the negative effects of stress. An example of such study is one conducted by the UCLA (Washington Post, 2003). The study intends to provide information and clues on the bodily effects of stress. For instance, the study of UCLA found that shy people who have sensitive temperament are more likely to develop unconscious changes caused by stress such as accelerated heart rate (Washington Post, 2003).

Stress affects a number of response systems in our body. The way our response systems react to stress varies due to "organ specificity wherein emotional conflicts affect body organs and certain behaviors" (Danielson, 2000). Following is a brief discussion of the response systems affected by stress and how their cycles are influenced.

Muscle Response

Muscles are typically involved during stress experiences. They are used by our body whenever we exercise actions meant to lessen stress. According to Danielson, in his The Body's Response to Stress, muscle tension or muscles that continuously undergo stress may cause the following problems.

Pain from lack of blood due to closed blood vessels.

Pain from constant pressure on a joint

Pain from muscle tissue tears due to contraction

Pain from smooth muscle spasms

Gastrointestinal Response

Tebbe and her colleagues, in her Role of Stress in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, indicate that psychological stress affects the gastrointestinal system. Though this system is not directly playing a role in the fight or flight response (Danielson, 2003), studies have shown that it is a part of the stress response.

From Danielson's The Body's Response to Stress, the following are signs of gastrointestinal's reaction to stress.

Mouth - usually a saliva decrease

Esophagus - spastic contractions interfering with swallowing

Stomach - usually not hungry, sometimes pain, sometimes nausea; anger - increased

Secretion of HCL and enzymes; fright or depression - decreased secretion of HCL

Intestines - alteration in peristalsis

Too fast - diarrhea

Too slow - constipation

Cardiovascular Response

The cardiovascular response system is perhaps stress's most commonly affected body system. Especially when a person in stress has cardiovascular ailments such as heart disease…

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