Unformatted text preview: 9/30/2019 Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles
Stress Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress 1/6 9/30/2019 Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles Science of Psychoneuroimmunology
Psychoneuroimmunology is de ned as the examination of the
interactions among psychological, behavioral, and social factors with
immunological and neuroendocrine outcomes. It is now well established
that psychological factors, especially chronic stress, can lead to
impairments in immune system functioning in both the young and older
adults. In several studies of older adults, those who are providing care
for a relative with dementia report high levels of stress and exhibit
signi cant impairments in immune system functioning when compared
with noncaregivers. Stress-induced changes in the immune system may
a ect a number of outcomes, including slowing the wound healing
process and increasing susceptibility to infections. What is stress?
Stress is a feeling you get when faced with a challenge. In small doses,
stress can be good for you because it makes you more alert and gives
you a burst of energy. For instance, if you start to cross the street and
see a car about to run you over, that jolt you feel helps you to jump out of
the way before you get hit. But feeling stressed for a long time can take a
toll on your mental and physical health. Even though it may seem hard to
nd ways to de-stress with all the things you have to do, it’s important to
nd those ways. Your health depends on it. Chronic Stress
We all have stress sometimes. For some people, it happens before
having to speak in public. For other people, it might be before a rst
date. What causes stress for you may not be stressful for someone else.
Sometimes stress is helpful—it can encourage you to meet a deadline or
get things done. But long-term stress can increase the risk of diseases
like depression, heart disease and a variety of other problems. A stressrelated illness called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after
an event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.
If you have chronic stress, the best way to deal with it is to take care of 2/6 9/30/2019 Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles the underlying problem. Counseling can help you nd ways to relax and
calm down. Medicines may also help. How Stress A ects your Health and What You Can Do About
Stress—just the word may be enough to set your nerves on edge.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people may cope with
stress more e ectively or recover from stressful events quicker than
others. It’s important to know your limits when it comes to stress to avoid
more serious health e ects.
Stress can be de ned as the brain’s response to any demand. Many
things can trigger this response, including change. Changes can be
positive or negative, as well as real or perceived. They may be recurring,
short-term, or long-term and may include things like commuting to and
from school or work every day, traveling for a yearly vacation, or moving
to another home. Changes can be mild and relatively harmless, such as
winning a race, watching a scary movie, or riding a rollercoaster. Some
changes are major, such as marriage or divorce, serious illness, or a car
accident. Other changes are extreme, such as exposure to violence, and
can lead to traumatic stress reactions. How does stress a ect the body?
Not all stress is bad. All animals have a stress response, which can be
life-saving in some situations. The nerve chemicals and hormones
released during such stressful times, prepares the animal to face a threat
or ee to safety. When you face a dangerous situation, your pulse
quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more
oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival. In the short
term, it can even boost the immune system.
However, with chronic stress, those same nerve chemicals that are lifesaving in short bursts can suppress functions that aren’t needed for
immediate survival. Your immunity is lowered and your digestive,
excretory, and reproductive systems stop working normally. Once the
threat has passed, other body systems act to restore normal functioning. 3/6 9/30/2019 Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles Problems occur if the stress response goes on too long, such as when
the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the
danger has subsided. How does stress a ect your overall health?
There are at least three di erent types of stress, all of which carry
physical and mental health risks:
Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family and other
Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing
a job, divorce, or illness.
Traumatic stress, experienced in an event like a major accident,
war, assault, or a natural disaster where one may be seriously hurt
or in danger of being killed.
The body responds to each type of stress in similar ways. Di erent
people may feel it in di erent ways. For example, some people
experience mainly digestive symptoms, while others may have
headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability.
People under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral
infections, such as the u or common cold, and vaccines, such as the u
shot, are less e ective for them.
Of all the types of stress, changes in health from routine stress may be
hardest to notice at rst. Because the source of stress tends to be more
constant than in cases of acute or traumatic stress, the body gets no
clear signal to return to normal functioning. Over time, continued strain
on your body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems,
such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression,
anxiety disorder, and other illnesses. Stress and Stressors
Even though there is little consensus among psychologists about the
exact de nition of stress, mainstream scientists de ne stress as the 4/6 9/30/2019 Psychoneuroimmunology and Stress | Disease Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles process by which we perceive and cope environmental factors that are
appraised as threatening or challenging by our brains. Those factors,
known as stressors, could be either physical or psychological in natural.
A stressor can be the presence of ood after a storm or nervousness
about SATs. According to the theory of Richard Lazarus, a psychologist
from UC Berkeley, there are three types of stressors (also known as
stimuli): major cataclysmic changes that a ect large numbers of persons;
major changes a ecting one or several persons; and daily hassles.
The rst type of stressors may refer to phenomena that are outside
anyone’s control. Like natural disasters, wars or uprooting and relocation,
they are universally stressful. The stressors themselves could be
ephemeral, but the physical and psychological aftermath is long-term.
The second category of stressors happen to relatively few people or to
individuals. These are events out of the individual’s control, like the
death of loved ones, a robbery, or the process of taking exams. The daily
hassles are little things that distress or irritate: a quarrel with parents, a
losing sports game or too much homework.
The above listed stressors all seem to have negative e ects and impacts
to our life, however, stressors can be positive as well. According to Hans
Selye, the father of stress study, there are two types of stress: eustress
and distress. Eustress refers to stress that actually allows the body to
function as well or better than it does while unstressed. LEARNING ACTIVITY Go to Stress Assessment to rate your own stress level.
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