& Acute Diseases
This section describes
how acute stress can impact the different biological systems
of the human body.
Effects in the Brain
Following a threat, the part
of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)
system triggers the production and release of steroid hormones
(glucocorticoids), including cortisol - the primary stress
hormone. Cortisol affects systems throughout the body. Catecholamines
also activate an area inside the brain, which apparently triggers
an emotional response to a stressful event and also signals,
the brain - to store the emotionally loaded experience in
During a stressful event, catecholamines also suppress activity
in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term
memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. This
sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly
- either to fight or to flee - in emergency situations; however,
this also hinders a person's ability to handle complex social
or intellectual tasks and behaviors
The Effects on the Heart,
Lungs, and Blood Circulation
The heart rate and blood pressure
increase instantaneously in response to stressful situations.
Breathing becomes rapid and the lungs take in more oxygen.
Blood flow may actually increase 200% to 300%, priming the
muscles, lungs, and brain for added demands. The spleen discharges
red and white blood cells, allowing the blood to transport
The Effects in the Mouth
During stress, fluids are
diverted from the mouth, causing dryness and difficulty in
talking. In addition, stress can cause spasms of the throat
muscles, making it difficult to swallow and also to fight
infection. In some cases there is APHASIA where the patient
can not talk or shout.
The Lungs & Respiratory
Respiratory disorders like
Asthma, Vasomotor Rhinitis and Hay fever are psycosomatic
1) Asthma -
The lungs may go in severe spasm in cases of patients suffering
from allergic respiratory disease causing acute breathlessness.
This may happen in response to acute anxiety or stress. Because
of acute stress the autoimmune mechanism of the body gets
activated resulting in bronchospasm in the lung alveoli to
prevent the entry of the allergen in the system.
2) Vasomotor Rhinitis -
This is characterized by paroxysmal attacks of sneezing and
3) Hay Fever -
It is seasonal and related with the amount of circulating
pollen and chacterized by an allergic reaction to pollen by
the nasal mucus membrane, conjunctiva, and mucous membrane
of the pharynx and upper respiratory tract.
Effects on the Skin
Emotional states can effect
1) Control of vascularity of the skin
2) Control of sebaceous gland secretion
3) Control of sweat
4) Influencing of the degree of exudation
5) Influencing of the tendency of pruritis
Stress commonly results in
cool, clammy sweaty skin and in a tightening of the scalp
that makes the hair seem to stand on end. The skin is cool
because blood flow is diverted away so it can support the
heart and muscle tissues. As a result, physical capacity is
increased and blood loss is reduced in the event of injury.
Urticaria with characteristic wheals and intense itching also
has emotional factors as one of its cause.
Stress depresses digestive
activity, a less essential body function during short-term
periods of physical exertion or crisis.
Effects on gastrointestinal
Excessive production of digestive
acids in the stomach (hyperacidity) may cause a painful burning
in the epigastric region and behind the sternum.
It is a disorder usaually associated with a emotional conflict
and characterized with reduced food intake leading to weight
The Effects on the Immune
The immediate effect of stress
is to dampen parts of the immune system. Certain factors in
the immune system - including important white blood cells -
are redistributed to potentially critical areas. In the case
of stress, these immune-boosting troops are sent to the body
parts where injury or infection is most likely, such as the
skin, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes.