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The psychological and physical effects of stress on the immune system.

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Psychology Essay: The psychological and physical effects of stress on the immune system. Over the recent years there have been researched studies in the psychological effects of stress on the immune system. In this paper I will discuss what stress is, what the immune system is and I will discuss various studies which have linked stress to physical illness. There is already supported evidence that stress is linked to physical illness, i.e. psychosomatic illness. These are things such as hypertension, asthma. Eczema and cardiac disease. 'Psyche' means the mind and 'soma' refers to the body. 'Psychosomatic' is a word used for the influence of the mind over the body. The immune system is an immensely complicated network of cells and chemicals throughout the body that functions to seek out invading particles. The term stress cannot be defined to one thing, as stress for some people is different for other people. ...read more.


The results showed that the executive monkeys developed ulcers while the yoked monkeys did not. Brady came to the conclusion that the executive monkeys had to remain constantly vigilant to avoid being shocked, while their partners could do nothing to influence the situation. Constant vigilance is highly stressful, and this stress led to physical illness. There is a very crucial criticism for this experiment. It lacked the factor of individual differences. The monkeys who had learned that pressing the levers became executives and the rest were left as yoked. Links between stress and physical illness have been investigated. Because stress effects the functioning of the immune system, people are more likely to catch colds after stressful experiences. Cohen et al (1991) proved this with his research. Healthy volunteers (154 men and 266 women) were injected with a common cold virus or a harmless salt solution. They were also given a stress index based upon the number of stressful events they had experienced in the past year, the extent to which they felt able to cope, and the incidence negative feelings such as anger and depression. ...read more.


Janice Kiecolt-Glasser (1993) developed Cohen's theory and met all the criticism. Her group devised ways of measuring the activity of the immune system and concluded that immunosuppression (low immune activity) was at high risk in the following groups; unhappily married women, recently separated women, long-term carers for Alzheimer patients and medical students taking examinations. Since stress depresses the immune system, it reduces the body's ability to fight attacks in the form of infections and viruses. A weakened immune system may also lower resistance to cancer cells. Jacobs and Charles (1980) asked cancer patients about stress in their lives before cancer was diagnosed. The results were that patients often reported higher than normal levels of stress. The conclusion was that the experience of high levels of stress might be linked to the development of cancer. I have proved, after looking at different findings from different researchers, that stress does have an affect on the immune system. To what extent we do not know as there has not been any conclusions on this. ...read more.

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