Even in the modern world,
the stress response can be an asset for raising levels of
performance during critical events such as a sports activity,
an important meeting, or in situations of actual danger or
crisis. This is called as positive stress or good stress.
But if the acute event is traumatic, if the body has an inefficient
relaxation response, or if stress factors accumulate over
time, all parts of the body like brain, heart, lungs, vessels,
and muscles - become chronically over - or under activated,
causing physical or psychological damage.
Stress diminishes the quality
of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and satisfaction
Relationships are often threatened, and there is always the
danger that chronic stress might develop into more serious
psychological problems, such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
One study suggested that stress is responsible for an increased
incidence of death in widows. Suicide, accidents, or alcohol-related
events were likely causes of death in these cases; men were
more at risk as compared to women.
Memory & Concentration
Patients may have loss of
concentration at work and at home and may become inefficient
and accident-prone. Stress may play an even more important
role than simple aging. If stress is chronic or extremely
severe, memory loss may become permanent. Very severe and
acute stress that causes post-traumatic stress disorder is
associated with physical changes in the brain.
Susceptibility to Diseases
A number of studies have shown
that people under chronic stress have low white blood cell
counts and are vulnerable to allergic colds. In some studies,
stress that had the most negative impact on resistance to
infection was from interpersonal conflicts. Recent research
even suggests that stress may actually be a cause of diseases
such as eczema, headaches, asthma, and sinus problems.
While there is no evidence
that stress causes cancer, there is some data to support the
belief that emotional states influence the progression or
regression of various diseases.
Mental stress is as important
a trigger for angina and serious cardiac events-such as heart
attacks. Incidents of acute stress often precede sudden
Stress can affect the heart
in several ways
Sudden stress increases the pumping action and rate of the
heart and causes the arteries to constrict, thereby posing
a risk for blocking blood flow to the heart. The combination
of these factors also increases the risk for disturbances
in cardiac rhythm.
Stress causes blood to become stickier increasing the possibility
of an arterial blood clot.
Stress may signal the body to release fat into the bloodstream,
raising blood-cholesterol levels, at least temporarily.
In women, chronic stress may reduce estrogen levels, which
are important for cardiac health.
Sudden increases in blood pressure caused by mental stress
may damage the inner lining of blood vessels, contributing
Also increased blood levels of the adrenaline and endothelin-chemicals
are known to constrict blood vessels causing high blood pressure.
In some people prolonged or
frequent mental stress causes an exaggerated increase in blood
pressure. This causes thickening of the carotid arteries,
which carry blood to the front, half of the brain. Blockage
and injury in these arteries are primary causes of stroke.
Prolonged stress can disturb
the digestive system, irritating the large intestine and causing
diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, and bloating.
Another digestive condition, irritable bowel syndrome does
appear to be strongly related to stress.
In this condition, the large intestine becomes irritated,
and its muscular contractions are spastic rather than smooth
and wave like. The abdomen is bloated and the patient experiences
cramping and alternating periods of constipation and diarrhoea.
Stress can have varying effects
on body weight. Some people suffer a loss of appetite and
lose weight. Others, however, develop cravings for salt, fat,
and sugar to counteract tension and, thus, may gain weight.
People under stress who respond in this way are at particular
risk for diabetes and heart problems.
Chronic stress has been associated
with the development of insulin-resistance, a condition in
which the body is unable to use insulin effectively to regulate
blood sugar. Insulin-resistance is a primary factor in diabetes.
Chronic pain caused by arthritis
and other conditions may be intensified by stress. Stress
also causes muscle contraction headache, during which the
pain is usually felt in the forehead, the back of the head
and neck, or both regions.
Soreness in the shoulder or neck is common. Tension headaches
can last minutes to days and may occur daily in chronic headache
condition. (Migraine headaches)
Fibrisitis and muscular rheumatism are also psychosomatic
The tensions of unsolved stress,
however, frequently cause insomnia, generally keeping the
stressed person awake or causing awakening in the middle of
the night or early morning.
Sexual and Reproductive
Stress can lead to diminish
sexual desire and an inability to achieve orgasm. Men may
experience erection dysfunction.
Women may develop menstrual irregularities, and stress may
even affect fertility. Stress hormones also have an impact
on the reproductive hormones. Severely elevated cortisol levels
can even shut down menstruation.
Maternal stress during pregnancy has been linked to a 50%
higher risk for miscarriage. It is also associated with lower
birth weights and increased incidence of premature births
- both of which are risk factors for infant mortality.
Stress may also cause physiologic alterations, unhealthy behavior
- bad diet and sedentary habits - that can harm the developing