How does stress affect the body?
How does stress affect the body? Well, stress affects both the psychological and physical health, especially if it is long-lasting and occurs frequently. It negatively impacts the physical activity and behavior of the person, and leads to a number of psycho-emotional disorders (anxiety, depression, neuroses, emotional lability, low mood, or, on the contrary, hyperarousal, anger, impaired memory, insomnia, fatigue, etc.).
Stress is the main risk factor for the manifestation and exacerbation of many illnesses, such as cardiovascular (myocardial infarction, angina, hypertension) and gastrointestinal diseases (gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcer) and decrease in immunity. So, how does stress affect our body?
Hormones, which are produced during stress and physiological levels of which are essential for a healthy body performance cause many adverse reactions if they are released in large amounts, and may lead to different diseases and even death. Their negative effect is exacerbated by the fact that the modern type of man rarely resorts to muscular energy under stress, unlike our ancestors. Therefore the high levels of these biologically active substance are circulating in blood for a long time, giving no rest to either the nervous system or internal organs.
High levels of glucocorticoids in the muscles, which occur under stress, cause nucleic acid and protein decomposition and may lead to muscular dystrophy in case of their long-term effects.
In the skin these substances inhibit the growth and division of fibroblasts, which leads to skin thinning, and it becomes more fragile and prone to injury. In the bone tissue glucocorticoids suppress the absorption of calcium. As a result of prolonged effect of these hormones the bone mass decreases, which resembles to the most widespread disease, – osteoporosis.
The list of negative effects of the high levels of stress hormones may be continued endlessly. It includes degeneration of the brain and spinal cord cells, stunted growth, decreased insulin secretion (steroidegenic diabetes), etc. A number of the distinguished scientists believe that stress is a major factor for the development of cancer and other oncological diseases.
Little but long-term stresses are no less dangerous than severe stress. Therefore, chronic stress, in particular, prolonged psychological tension or depression may also lead to the above disorders. This even contributed to the emergence of a new trend in medicine, called psychosomatics, which considers various forms of stress as a major or concomitant pathogenetic factor for many (if not all) diseases.
At the first glance, it may seem that stress has exceptionally destructive effect on health. However, stress sometimes can be very helpful:
- during stress the human body produces epinephrine, which helps us find a way out of the situation and take any further action;
- stress encourages us to establish the relationships with other people, while increasing the blood levels of oxytocin, which sometimes is called a hormone of affection;
- short-term stress can also improve our working memory, which is used to perform different tasks;
- having overcome stress, people become more enduring.
Thus, the effects of stress on the human body are controversial, but given an objective approach, the negative consequences of stress are more pronounced. Therefore we should always stay positive, don’t take anything personally, have a good rest and thus avoid stress in all its manifestations.