“Stress could kill you”
And actually it can! Or at least it makes you sick!
Stress is a biological adaptive response to situations of instability or threat. It is an important mechanism for survival and it works with a "fight or flight" response.
In general, people are resilient and also able to deal with adverse circumstances through psychic, behavioral and with neuroendocrine and immune mechanisms.
The reaction to the stressor is individual however, dependent on previous experiences, symbolic thought and also genetic factors. Some studies also showed changes on inflammatory processes regulation, brain function, and in peripheral stress response when stressful events occur in determined phases in life. That means different perceptions produce different intensities on metabolic response and this process may result in permanent changes.
At first, stress is an acute response, which enhances memory and the situation decoding, improves the memory retention, decision making, and the neuromotor control.
In 2016 a meta-analysis showed a selective attention in some conditions in acute stress, still not elucidated as well as a memory improvement.
And that’really cool!
But long-term stressors such as social pressure or at work, overload from various sources, or even extreme situations like sexual abuse, trauma, wars and environmental catastrophes, for example, can extend stress and its effects. And the problems begin in this point.
Here we emphasize the metabolic dysregulation, but it is valuable look for more information about the emotional and behavioral consequences of these processes.
First of all, the signaling of acute reactions of stress happens like this:
Figure 1. Signaling response of acute stress
And the extended response to stress has the following consequences:
1. Cardiovascular system: when continuously stimulated, the consequence is a permanent high blood pressure, vascular hypertrophy, ventricular hypertrophy and atherosclerosis (by inflammatory mechanisms). It is also reported an increasing in mortality.
Western Scotland Study and Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study observed an association between hypertension and stress.
2. Immune system: counterregulatory hormones suppress immunity.
This impairs healing, surgical recovery, decreases response to vaccine antibodies and put the body in vulnerability to viruses.
3. Neuroendocrine System: extended activation of this system may deregulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullar axis. Cortisol and adrenaline can affect the pancreas.
Chronic activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic-adrenal-medullar axis and associated mechanisms, in conjunction with the amplification of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNFα and IL6), counteract insulin and may induce insulin resistance and βcell dysfunction.
The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health published in 2017 with a 12-year follow-up of more than 12,000 women showed a link between perceived stress and type 2 diabetes as a risk factor for developing the disease.
The Nurses Health Study II observed similar results in post-traumatic stress.
In addition, other effects of stress reported are:
- Behavioral Disorders
- Sleep Disorders
So, adequate control of stress and taking care of mental health may have more benefits to the health than you think!
Check a video about the topic!
Neil Schneiderman, Gail Ironson, and Scott D. Siegel. STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2005; 1: 607–628. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141
Carroll D, Ginty AT.,Whittaker, Lovallo AC, William R, Susanne R.The behavioural,cognitive,and neural corollaries of blunted cardiovascular and cortisol reactions to acute psychological stress.Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.02.025
Harris ML,Oldmeadow C, Hure A, Luu J, Loxton D, Attia J (2017) Stress increases the risk of type 2 diabetes onset in women: A 12-year longitudinal study using causal modelling. PLoS ONE 12(2):e0172126.doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0172126
Shields GS, Sazma MA, Yonelinas AP. The effects of acute stress on core executive functions: a meta-analysis and comparison with cortisol. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. 2016