This study discusses stress and its effects on the body. Stress is the response of the brain to demands. It assumes various situations including change. There are biological and physiological forms of stress. During a stressful event, the body reacts through the sympathetic nervous systems. Stress affects both the physical and mental health.
Signs and Symptoms of stress
There are cognitive, behavioral, physical, or emotional signs. Cognitive symptoms include memory problems, poor judgment, pessimistic thoughts, inability to concentrate, anxiety and constant worrying. Emotional symptoms include moodiness, feelings of being overwhelmed, agitation, and inability to relax, irritability and short temper, isolation, sense of loneliness and general unhappiness. Physical symptoms include increased rate of urination, aches and pains, indigestion, dizziness, changes in blood glucose, chest pain, and nausea, loss of sex drive, irregular periods, and frequent colds. Behavioral symptoms comprise of eating more or less, isolating oneself from others, nervous habits such as nail biting, neglecting responsibilities and sue of alcohol.
Various situations can cause positive and negative changes. The changes cause stress and further affect the brain. The varied changes also vary with the recurrence and extreme. A short and positive stress is however good for the body as it activates the brain and acts as a boost to the immune response. In stressful conditions, the nerves and the hormones released in stressful conditions prepares a person to face the danger or flee for safety. After the threat is gone, the body system is restored for regular functioning. When stress response goes on for long or when the origin of the stress is constant, the body may experience some form of danger.
There are three major forms of stress. All these forms of stress however come with different forms of risks. There is constant stress, which is usually related to family pressures, daily responsibilities and pressures of work. There is stress, which is created by immediate negative changes like losing a job, illnesses and divorce. There is the traumatic stress, which is experiences in times of war, natural disasters, and assault. A person may be seriously armed or might have faced the threat of being killed. Response may assume the same form to all these stress. There is a variation as to how different people may respond to the same form of stress. Constant stress may be difficult to identify, as the origin is usually the same. The result may be critical health problems like high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, or heart diseases.
The term ‘stress’ existed from the beginning of the twentieth century (Mathers & Loncar, 2007). Stress is a word, which was derived from a Latin word, which implies ‘to draw tight’. It was used in the physical science to refer to the force on an object. Later on, the biologists applied the term stress to imply a harmful agent existing in the environment. The term was also used to refer to mental strain, which leads to illnesses (Malhi, Moore & McGuffin, 2006). There is need for the body to maintain homeostasis all through. Homeostasis is a body condition of maintaining equilibrium. As a person continues to interact with the environment, the body must adjust to accommodate the prevailing changes. The adjustment results to consumption of resources, which is also defined as stress. Failure to adjustment also leads to stress. Previous researchers describe stress the same as a cause and a result of stress.
Stress has profound effects on the biological systems. The central nervous system consists of the spinal cord and the brain is essential in the body mechanisms. Central nervous system is related with the endocrine system to manage stress. The sympathetic nervous system is usually active as it regulates the physiological functions of the body. The brain is crucial in the perception and management of stress within the body. The role of the brain incorporates sending of information to and from the regions of stress within the body. Communication takes place from the cortical sensory nerves to the basal structures. Hence, negative effects of stress heavily affect the entire nervous system.
Hypothalamus is a tiny part in the brain. It is found below the thalamus. The hypothalamus joins the nervous and the endocrine systems. There are various neural inputs and outputs, which run in both directions. The connections between the two systems regulate the hypothalamus capability of regulating the secretion of hormones to the blood system (Bartolomucci & Leopardi, 2009). The effect of the regulation affects even the body metabolism. In stressful situations, the hypothalamus secretes the corticotrophin-releasing hormone. The corticotrophin-releasing hormone acts on the pituitary gland. The hormone stimulates the gland to regulate the response path of the stress.
Amygdala is a tiny structure, almond shaped. The amygdala is located bilaterally and in the medial temporal lobes. The amygdale has projections that connect to the hypothalamus, locus coeruleus and the hippocampus. The amygdale is in charge of processing emotions, which modulates the response mechanisms. Processing is especially active when a person is anxious and fearful. The hippocampus is located in the medial temporal lobes in the brain. The structure is assumed to be in charge of the formation of memory. The hippocampus is significant in managing stress as it enhances, generates, or suppresses the stress response prior memories. It is a component of the brain that is most susceptible to reduction due to chronic stress.
The prefrontal cortex is positioned within the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex. The structure is in charge of regulation of cognitive processes such as planning, problem solving, and paying attention. These functions are attained in relation to other brain parts. In cases of stress, this structure is usually impaired. The Locus Coeruleus is found within the pons of the brain stem. It is the main site for the production of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The neurotransmitter acts on the sympathetic nervous system of the fight and flight response. When the structure collects information from the hypothalamus, raphe nucleus and the amygdala, it relays the information to the entire brain and the spinal cord. The raphe nucleus regulates the mood in relation to depression and anxiety.
The spinal cord is critical in the transfer of stress response to the entire body. Other than the neuro-endocrine hormone, the spinal cord passes information to the body. Some of the sympathetic nervous cells exit the spinal cord to the peripheral nerves. The result is that the entire body organs and muscles are engaged in the fight and flight reaction. The pituitary gland is in charge of releasing hormones that regulate the homeostasis. The adrenal gland located near the kidneys is in charge of the production of the stress hormones. The cortisol acts by weakening the immune system. It stops the explosion of the T-cells by causing the interleukin-2 producers T-cells unresponsive to the interleukin-1. Its acts on the interleukin-2 also reduce the production of T-cell growth factor. This helps in minimizing stress within the body.
Effects of Stress
The immune system responds protects the body from foreign bodies such as bacteria, and viruses. When there is an intruder to the body, the immune system sends a message of attack to the body. The T cells attack intruders. Cells infected by viruses are killed by the natural. Leukocytes in general generate cytokines. Cytokines fight infections. They are also in charge of immune communication to the brain when the body is ill. In stressful events, the body through the white blood cells produces the natural killer cells and the cytokines. In situations where the cytokines are higher, diseases are overcome. The brain receives information that the body is in poor health. The brain therefore produces signs and symptoms such as fever, sleepiness and absence of appetite. All these are related to illness.
To the immune system, stress causes imbalance of the equilibrium (Binder & Holsboer, 2006). The disequilibrium further causes alteration of the hormones, which affect the immune response in the body. Previous studies have confirmed that there are decreased levels of the immune response. The victim hereby becomes susceptible to infectious diseases such as influenza causing virus. To patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, increased levels of stress has been associated with increased viral progression (Malhi, Moore & McGuffin, 2000). Chronic stress manifests in various physical ways. There is increased blood pressure, heart attack and other complicated diseases. This is especially evident in older individuals. Stress has been shown to impair development of the body in children. This has been achieved by the reduction of the production of the growth hormones from the pituitary gland. Stress affects the memory of the brain.
Management of stress
The effects of stress build up over a period. There is therefore need to maintain the general health, react positively to stress and seek professional help in case a person is overwhelmed. Proper health care for existing health problems should be sought. The victim should stay around positive people who can offer emotional and other forms of support (World Health Organization, 2005). To avoid stressful situation, people need to know how to set priorities to avoid getting overloaded. People should also avoid dwelling on problems. Constant exercise is necessary to boost the mood and minimize stress levels. To avoid piled up stress, a person should allocate time for relaxing and times for healthy activities. Stress coping programs can be included into an individual schedule. These programs include meditation and other gentle exercises.
In order to cope with stress, there is need to control the source of stress (National Institutes of Health, 2015). The origin of stress can be dealt with by having control over the situation. There is need for a person to set limits for official work. It is also healthy to disappro0ve of stressful situations in marriage and family. People are encouraged to take frequent exercises such as breathing routines, taking a break and going for outings. Community social support is necessary in stressful situations. A person can improve the ability of managing stress through taking a hobby, and listening to music.
Stress affects the entire body, especially the central nervous system. There is need for people to overcome stressful situations such as marriage turmoil as well as chronic stress (National Institutes of Health, 2015). Stress has been proved to change the role of leucocytes like macrophages and lymphocytes. People who are undergoing chronic stress have been seen to undergo explosion of the lymphocytes. There is reduced functioning of the cellular immunity in people who are in distressed marriages and other greater stress situations. Cortisol hormone prevents the production of the cytokines, which further affects the functionality of the immune respo
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