Stress And Mental Health Essay

1958 Words 8 Pages
Effects of Chronic Stress on Physical and Mental Health Physiological and psychological factors can cause stress and can occur throughout the lifespan. Stress is unavoidable, but how individuals cope with stress can affect both their physical and mental health. In The Oxford Handbook of Stress, Health, and Coping, Folkman (2011) explains, “stress, coping, and health reflect life-long processes that develop of change through all phases of life as a result of biological factors, individuals’ behaviors, and socio-contextual influences” (p. 4). Sanders and Suls (1982) define stressors as life events that “[cause] change in, and [demand] readjustment of, an average person’s normal routine” (p. 4). Similarly, Ciccarelli and White (2015) describe …show more content…
88) that allow the body to quickly “meet the demands of pressing situations” (Folkman, 2011, p. 88). However, when these reactions occur on a chronic basis, they can cause harmful long-term health problems (Folkman, 2011, p. 88) on one’s physical and mental health. Some examples of long-term health implications, provided by Folkman (2011), are suppressed immune function, irregular and rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, hypertension, coronary heart disease, decreased lymphatic response, increased susceptibility to infectious disorders, destruction of neurons in the hippocampus, autoimmune, rheumatologic and cardiovascular disorders, psychiatric disorders cause by neurochemical imbalances, and excessive inflammation that can exacerbate allergic reactions (pp. 88-89). When under stress, the body produces excessive malondialdehyde that degrades cell integrity (Ricks, 2014, p. 19). Furthermore, Ricks (2014) goes on to say that research has found “psychological stress can cause system-wide imbalance of cellular homeostasis, accompanied by elevated oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory activity” (p. 19). Chronic homeostatic imbalance leads to many health problems such as suppressed thyroid function, decreased bone density, imbalance blood sugar and hormones, suppressed immune system responses, loss of bone and muscle, weakness, …show more content…
Hans Selye found that stress causes a series of physiological reactions within our bodies that he labeled the general adaptation syndrome (Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2004, p. 45; Ciccarelli & White, 2015, p. 430). The general adaptation syndrome comprises a pattern of responses that occur in three sequential stages. First, the body responds to a stressor with an alarm reaction, which causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar (Ciccarelli & White, 2015, p. 430; Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2004, p. 45). The second stage is the resistance phase or cortisol reaction where the body releases hormones, such as noradrenaline, to counteract or resist the stress (Ciccarelli & White, 2015, p. 430; Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2004, p. 45). The third stage called the exhaustion stage causes “adrenal exhaustion, depleted energy reserves, and failing immunity” (Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2004, p. 45). The persistent stimulation of the alarm reaction along with the continued release of cortisol in the resistance stage can lead to metabolic syndrome or syndrome-X that is associated with abdominal obesity (belly fat), gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased insulin production, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, and stroke (Kendall-Reed & Reed, 2004, pp. 44-45). According to Kendall-Reed and Reed (2004), metabolic syndrome “represents the largest single threat to health in the upcoming decade” (p. 44). Research makes it clear that

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