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Defining the Link Between Stress and Illness.

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Introduction- Defining the Link Between Stress and Illness. In the psychological and medical world there is much interest in a possible link between stress, or life events and illness in humans. Many studies have been conducted and articles written, with theories and results being promoted as the definite answer. Firstly, before we can say stress is one thing or another, we must address problems that seem to be overlooked when drawing up conclusions. Firstly there's the question of what stress actually is, and whether it's actually a bad thing in moderation- in primal time's stress was essential to stay alive. It kicks the human body into action, operating the 'fight or flight' response where hormones are released; preparing the body to either confront the danger it faces, or flee from it, to safety from physical or mental harm. These days however, when such 'flight or fight' action is not needed as much in the modern world, people view stress as a serious problem, and can be brought on by such trivial things, or major life stressors. Is stress a stimulus or a response, or a mixture of the two? By which I mean is it something that makes us something else, or does it only comes into play after an event? It can be used to describe a situation, object or a person or any other living thing causing stress, so one can only assume these all cause varying types and levels off stress- nothing can be pin-pointed. ...read more.


The results were conclusive; showing that natural killer cell activity had declined in the period of time between the blood tests. This shows that, as others have suggested and researched into, stress is associated with a decreased response from the immune system. The study did have many strengths, including the ability to positively say that stress and immune response are negatively correlated (as stress goes up immune response goes down). However we cannot say one was a direct cause of the other. A good point about this study was that the stress experienced by the students was naturally induced -in other experiment's participants have been placed into stressful situations by the examiner (like Palmblad in 1979 who restricted sleep patterns). This could end up having unwanted effects on the results-for example some people may be used to certain situations whilst it is totally new to others, and other extraneous variables. At least with this study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al we can say that each participant was put in the same situation and had to do the same amount of work to achieve their goal. However I feel that this study is not necessarily fair as some participants may be suffering stress for other reasons, such as funding problems, existing health issues or family arguments. However I feel that this study, although relative to examinations students, could only be applied to them, and not generalised because not everyone in the world is a medical student taking their exams. ...read more.


Although many people seem to moan and groan about having to do exercise, it has become much more popular in the last few years, being seen as a form of weight control, lowering anxiety levels, boosting self esteem and good moods. However, on the stress front, although many do feel it is a great way of stress busting, there is little evidence to show it actually contributes in some specific way. It can't be done by everyone- for example somebody with cardiovascular problems would have to take great care, as exercise increases heart rate and blood pressure. It can also result in muscle and ligament damage and other related ailments, and as exercise needs to be done regularly to reap the benefits, this doesn't show itself as being the best treatment of stress. It also can be time consuming, and costly. As you can see, each of these few stress reducing techniques has both its good and its bad points, and so it would be wisest to combine a few of these. For example drugs for the short-term help, and cognitive-behavioural techniques for the long term, and for tackling the root of the problem. As everybody is individual, I think the idea of talking to a therapist is one of the best, it means that a treatment can be tailored to suit each person, they have a 'should to cry on'. Talking about problems does seem to be one of the best ways of dealing with them. ...read more.

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