Life Event, Stress and Illness
Here is a nice little article about just how significant stress can be in our lives and the impact on our health if we do not by choice make changes to bring balance into our lives. It is up to us to be accountable to and responsible for our health; as best we can.
The relationship between stress and illness is complex. The susceptibility to stress varies from person to person. Among the factors that influenced the susceptibility to stress are genetic vulnerability, coping style, type of personality and social support. Not all stress has negative effect. Studies have shown that short-term stress boosted the immune system, but chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness. It raises catecholamine and suppressor T cells levels, which suppress the immune system. This suppression, in turn raises the risk of viral infection. Stress also leads to the release of histamine, which can trigger severe broncho-constriction in asthmatics. Stress increases the risk for diabetes mellitus, especially in overweight individuals, since psychological stress alters insulin needs. Stress also alters the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to peptic ulcers, stress ulcers or ulcerative colitis. Chronic stress can also lead to plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), especially if combined with a high-fat diet and sedentary living. The correlation between stressful life events and psychiatric illness is stronger than the correlation with medical or physical illness. The relationship of stress with psychiatric illness is strongest in neuroses, which is followed by depression and schizophrenia. There is no scientific evidence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the immune system changes and the development of cancer. However, recent studies found a link between stress, tumour development and suppression of natural killer (NK) cells, which is actively involved in preventing metastasis and destroying small metastases.
The relationship between stress and illness is complex. The susceptibility to stress varies from person to person. An event that causes an illness in a person may not cause illness in other person. Events must interact with a wide variety of background factors to manifest as an illness. Among the factors that influenced the susceptibility to stress are genetic vulnerability, coping style, type of personality and social support. When we are confronted with a problem, we assess the seriousness of the problem and determine whether or not we have the resources necessary to cope with problem. If we believe that the problem is serious and do not have the resources necessary to cope with the problem, we will perceive ourselves as being under stress (2). It is our way of reacting to the situations that makes a difference in our susceptibility to illness and our overall well-being.
Not all stress has negative effect. When the body tolerates stress and uses it to overcome lethargy or enhance performance, the stress is positive, healthy and challenging. Hans Selye (3), one of the pioneers of the modern study of stress, termed this eustress. Stress is positive when it forces us to adapt and thus to increase the strength of our adaptation mechanisms, warns us that we are not coping well and that a lifestyle change is warranted if we are to maintain optimal health. This action-enhancing stress gives the athlete the competitive edge and the public speaker the enthusiasm to project optimally. Stress is negative when it exceeds our ability to cope, fatigues body systems and causes behavioral or physical problems. This harmful stress is called distress. Distress produces overreaction, confusion, poor concentration and performance anxiety and usually results in sub par performance.
Illness is a real thing; but never lose hope that the body will not heal; it will when given the correct support and love.
Healing stress and how this impacts the body is often about learning new skills, new lifestyle strategies and new ways to nourish our whole being.