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Discuss Research That Has Suggested A Link Between Stress And Ill Health.

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Introduction

´╗┐Research that has suggested a link between stress and ill health. Looking at the link between stress and illness, there have been many studies done to show the direct effect stress has in relation to illness, the main three pathways looked at are the direct effect, stress interacting with pre-existing vulnerabilities and how stress leads to behavioural changes that are not beneficial to one?s health. However it is hard for researchers to establish a definite cause and effect relationship between stress and specific physical symptoms or illnesses. Not only do people's minds and bodies react differently to stress, but there also are other factors at work when someone falls ill. Most researchers have found the more a person suffers from stress the weaker his or hers immune system becomes. In trying to understand why stress can be bad for the body is to look at it from an evolutionary perspective, where in the past our ancestors were often confronted with life threatening situations and as a result the ?fight or flight? response evolved. Whilst being confronted by dangerous situations such as confrontation with a predator it was necessary to send blood to the muscles and be in a heightened state of arousal, however today it might not be relevant to most everyday stressors. So we can say most stressors do not pose a physical danger to us yet the way our nervous and endocrine systems have evolved we react to the stressors as if they did, whilst it might have been an adaptive response for our ancestors it has become maladaptive for us today. ...read more.

Middle

In 1936 a Canadian physiologist Hans Seyle introduced his theory of ?General Adaptation Syndrome? (GAS). Through research done on rats in adverse conditions Seyle was able to develop this theory which was useful in predicting the body?s physiological responses to stress. General adaptation Syndrome (GAS) describes the three phases of how the body reacts to stress. In his work, Selye developed the theory that stress is a major cause of disease because chronic (long term) stress causes long term chemical imbalances which are harmful to the body. The initial reaction is the fight or flight stage (alarm stage) which is the body?s first mechanism to respond to the stressors, he observed that the body would respond to any external biological source of stress with a predictable biological pattern in an attempt to restore the body?s internal homeostatic balance. During the ?Alarm? phase the part of the brain called the hypothalamus detects stress and in turn activates the sympathetic division of the nervous system which releases hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to provide the body with instant energy to combat the stressors. During the alarm stage everything in the body is working as it should as the hormones have jolted the body with the instant energy, however if this instant energy is not physically used by the body it can become harmful as too much adrenaline results in an increase in blood pressure which can damage blood vessels to the heart and brain, a major risk for heart attacks and strokes. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion we see that all the various studies done some way or the other provide evidence to suggest a link between illness and stress, and shows that the more stress the person is under the more likely he or she is to becoming ill. Long term stress can disable the body?s ability to cope as a result of the chemical imbalances from within. But more importantly how an individual deals with stress or stressors also determines to some extent whether they are at risk to illness. The negative effects of stress on the functioning of the immune system have been found in many research studies. Therefore, the results in this area of research are extremely reliable. Even though a lot of research in this area is correlational, it probably is the case that there is an unintended relationship between stress and the functioning of the immune system. However, studies typically talk about group differences or correlations such as medical students or people who have been bereaved, etc. within those groups, there are large individual differences, and some people experiencing bereavement for example do not show impaired immune system function. We know that there are important individual differences such as gender, but we don?t know why these occur. An increasing body of evidence suggests there is a relative role for acute and chronic stress in many medical disorders and psychiatric states. Methods of measuring and assessing stress factors need to also appraise the patients coping and adaptive mechanisms. ...read more.

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