Chronic Stress

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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…
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 the body’s prolonged reactions to chronic stress have serious health

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