It has been known for a long time that negative emotions are tied to specific diseases - i.e. fears lead to cardiovascular diseases, anger damages liver, apathy affects the stomach.
They all have something in common - stress. But how should we deal with stress?
What is stress? Why does it happen? Is it always bad?
Stress is an inevitable part of everyday life. Minor stresses are harmless (and even helpful at times), however, negative, long-lasting stress can be debilitating to one’s health.
The author of the theory of stress, well-known Canadian scientist Hans Selye, has determined stress as a set of typical genetically-programmed nonspecific reactions of an organism aimed for its survival by means of its “fight or flight” response. Minor effects of negative factors do not usually cause stress. It happens when the stress factors (stressors) surpass our natural ability to handle them. The stressors cause the body to change its way of functioning by mobilizing its resources to cope with danger (raise blood pumping and dilate airways to increase oxygen intake, increase blood clotting, etc.) or adapting to it. This is the main purpose of stress response.
A typical stress response has 3 phases:
- Alertness – to mobilize all protective means of the body.
- Stabilization – balanced use of the body’s adaptive capabilities.
- Exhaustion – final phase coming after the prolonged effects of stressors have used up all adaptive reserves of the body.
Some stress is a natural part of life, which in Selye’s opinion creates a “taste of life”. Stress stimulates us in complex processes at work, in creative endeavors, and in competition. However, when the strong influence of stressors become excessive and constant, they drain our protective means and can lead to illness, or even cause neurotic or psychosomatic disorders. Different people react to stressors differently. Some react proactively, fighting the danger. Others react passively and give up quickly. Generally these types of reaction cause specific types of disorders. Based on numerous clinical observations, doctors have discovered that most stressors typically cause hypertension, ulcer, heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, etc. Anger that is not expressed could cause rheumatoid arthritis, skin problems, migraine, indigestion, etc.
Why does stress cause somatic disorders? When we are feeling strong negative emotions, significant physical changes happen in the body causing excessive energy production. Moreover, a prolonged negative psychological attitude/personality often promotes faster exhaustion of the body’s protective means.
Connection between stress and disease.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have discovered strong connection between certain personality traits on one end and somatic disorders on the other. Example: individuals trying to fit in a certain position/job that doesn’t fit their personality or capabilities have a higher chance to develop cardiovascular diseases. Chronic coronary disease is more typical for proactive goal-oriented, ambitious and less tolerant individuals.
Individuals suffering from stomach ulcers are typically very anxious and irritable. They are very conscientious, but usually have a low self-esteem, are vulnerable, shy, sensitive and hypochondriac. These individuals always try to do more than they are capable of. They tend to overcome difficulties having very high level of anxiety.
The level of stress-related pathological changes in the body is usually linked with personal assessment of the situation, which in turn depends on feelings of personal responsibility. The signs of emotional tension appearing in stressful situations tend to intensify when there is a lack of physical activity.
Remember about connection: stress - disease and find your ways to manage stress. Read more on Stress Management tips, use recommended by Health Reviser stress relievers, monitor your stress on a regular basis.