How Stress Affects Us by Dr. Morgan Ashurst
In today’s fast-paced world each of us is exposed to a thousand times more stress than our great grandparents, making us particularly sensitive to social and emotional stressors. Stress occurs whenever our body has to adapt to a change in our external or internal environment – Heat, cold, illness, good news, and bad news, all of these calls for the body to respond. Our body responds by releasing the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol, which go into effect when we are in a fight or flight situation.
Unfortunately, these same chemicals and released in response to emotional stress but are not utilized for physical exertion and therefore, tend to accumulate. Many researchers believe that an excess of these chemicals may play a significant role in the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers and many other illnesses. Too much stress also contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and may lead to obesity, cigarette consumption, alcohol abuse, and if severe, even suicide. It is important to learn how to manage stress so that it doesn’t overwhelm us.
Dr. Andrew E. Slaby feels that stress is a challenge and that the right amount of stress encourages us to develop our talents and adapt to changing world. Too much stress, however, produces distress, which can express itself in physical and emotional ways. The most common presentations of too much stress are anger, anxiety and depression.
Anger – This emotion is characterized by hostility, impatience, and irritability.
Anxiety – This can be characterized by nervousness, inability to relax, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and fear, which is out of proportion to the dangerousness of the situation. Dr. Virginia Huffer describes anxiety as a signal that something is threatening our internal psychological balance much like a fever is a sign of infection in the body. She further feels that external stress is most likely to produce chronic anxiety if it reopens old emotional wounds left over from childhood. Panic attacks are intense acute anxiety attacks, which have all the characteristics of severe anxiety plus the intense fear of impending doom or death.
Depression – Those with depression experience sad feelings, loss of the joy of living, and decreased energy. Dr. Joseph Tally, a depression expert, feels that most depression is caused by “chemical imbalance in the brain.” Dr. Tally also feels that “depression is a type of illness over which patients have little control and thus cannot fight successfully without help.” He lists the following, as symptoms most depressed patients will usually experience:
Because physical illness itself is so stressful, it is not unusual to find depression in association with chronic illness.
About Morgan Ashurst, MD