The impact of stress on health
By ianfielder, Oct 15 2018 08:14AM
Life stress events- things like loss of a job, death of a loved one and getting divorced (or married) raise the risk of getting sick. All sorts of other life events also generate stress, with possible negative health effects ranging from catching a cold to major depression to a fatal heart attack.
Certain events inflict severe psychological (and physiological) stress. Death of a spouse, getting diagnosed with a terminal illness and separation of children from parents are indisputably "major stressful life events." But no clear rules have been established to define what features place an event in that category (which makes stress research complicated, with often ambiguous results).
Some researchers hold that stress magnitude hinges on how much "adaptation" is required to cope with it (which is why marriage can be considered especially stressful). A second theory gauges stressfulness as the amount of threat or harm an event poses. Some experts view stress as a mismatch between demands and resources. A fourth view regards "interruption of goals" as the prime feature of a life stress event. These theories about stress-event criteria aren't mutually exclusive but on the whole the "threat or harm" perspective is the most commonly accepted.
Recent stressful life events (major and minor) psychologists may ask about to gauge a person's stress level include everything from the death of a spouse to taking on a mortgage to getting a speeding ticket. Life events commonly included on stress questionnaires may be objectively bad or good, major or minor. They include the death of a spouse, divorce, the loss of a job - or even a big achievement. Some stress checklists focus more on traumatic events, such as assaults; others ask about events that in the last year have brought major or minor changes to everyday life, requiring adaptation or readjustments, even if they are seemingly beneficial (getting a promotion). Some important events related to illness are those that affect social status, self-esteem, identity and physical well-being. Not all are equal in effect, and there's much variation in how people respond.
Depression and heart disease are commonly associated with stressful events, but stress's influence extends to other health problems as well. Stress can boost anxiety and discourage healthy practices such as exercising and eating well. At the same time stress can instigate bad behaviours such as smoking and drinking. All these responses can have negative impacts on important organs (brain, heart, liver), possibly resulting in multiple health problems either by triggering the onset or accelerating the progression of a disease.
Personal traits and situation and the circumstances in which a person lives make them more or less at risk for life stress. Neighbourhoods with low socioeconomic status are sites of higher-than-average levels of stressful events, and people with low personal socioeconomic status have more risk of encountering violence, death of a child and divorce. One stressful event - such as loss of a job - can lead to others (such as loss of income, moving or divorce).
The magnitude of a stressful event's impact depends a lot on the nature of the stress. Most damaging, research indicates, are experiences that threaten an individual's sense of competence or status, striking at a person's core identity. Loss of status, losing a job and interpersonal conflict with spouses or close friends can all exacerbate health problems, from raising the risk of depression to worsening high blood pressure and reducing resistance to respiratory infection.
Chronic stress may have a persistent detrimental effect on the body's disease-fighting immune system. Acute stress, like single traumatic events, may trigger a dramatic worsening of an existing condition, such as heart disease. In that case, a sufficiently powerful stress event can induce a fatal heart attack.
Article reproduced fromthe National Hypnothearpy October 2018 newsletter