The consequences of stress on the Human body - What Studies | Knowledge


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The consequences of stress on the Human body

Stress works much like a reflex after which the nervous system reacts by secreting hormones that naturally boost. To cope with the consequences of stress, additional energy is needed.
The long term effects of stress and anxiety can be multiple and the consequences are sometimes devastating. In this article, we detail the different types of stress and the symptoms that we can associate:
  • Acute stress
  • Chronic stress
  • The physical reaction
  • The psychological impact


As a result of a stressful situation where you have to fight or flee, on the body reacts biologically in 2 steps.
The response is controlled by the SNA (Autonomic Nervous System) which triggers the production of hormones to provide a short-term response, regardless of any voluntary control.

1st time: the shock

  • The blood sugar level collapses;
  • Muscle tone also collapses;
  • The mind becomes confused;
  • Physical manifestations appear.

2nd time: the reaction:

Effects of stress on the brain. when it perceives a threat, the organization of stress on the body instantly activates the hypothalamus, a structure of the limbic brain that ensures homeostasis, that is, the maintenance of biological constants in equilibrium (pressure arterial, heart, and respiratory rate).

On the one hand, the stress response mobilizes the sympathetic limb and thus the adrenal medulla which immediately releases catecholamines (adrenaline) or "stress hormones". It is called the stress axis, which is triggered by two kinds of stimuli that directly alert the hypothalamus:
  • Cognitive stimuli, such as physical stimuli (pain, cold, noise), and emotions perceived by the sense organs and the nervous system;
  • Non-cognitive stimuli such as viruses and bacteria recognized by the immune system.
With this adrenaline boost, the body is able to multiply your mental and physical strengths. Nevertheless, it is a costly operating regime in which the energy reserves that can be mobilized are rapidly being lost.

The prolongation of the reaction involves the support of the corticotropic axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal cortex) which increases the secretion of cortisol.

In these conditions, and if the threat has disappeared, the situation is under control, everything is in order under the soothing effect of cortisol.


If it is no longer a predator but stress that persists, which regularly returns to the load, the activation of the body tends to continue.

It secretes hormones such as cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, endorphin. However, the effects of the first, beneficial in acute stress, are harmful when the stress becomes chronic.

Indeed, cortisol is responsible for an increase in protein degradation; to produce energy substrates, the body that has exhausted its reserves of sugars and lipids, attacks its own structures. This production of energy components results in:
  • An increase in glucose, triglycerides and blood cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular diseases;
  • An effect on immune abilities.
To overcome the negative effects of excessive and prolonged secretion of cortisol, the body has a regulatory mechanism: the hippocampus, structure of the temporal lobe of the brain.

While under the effect of acute stress, the hippocampus slows the hypothalamus, the secretion of CRH (Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone *) then decreases, which reduces that of cortisol, toxic for him. In chronic stress, he loses his ability to curb the hypothalamus.

Activation of the corticotropic axis tends to become permanent. The cortisol remains high, it then manifests its anxiety and depressant power and causes a degradation of memory and learning abilities. You reach what the specialists call "the phase of exhaustion"; the reactions of your SNA ** are no longer adapted to the demands of the environment.


The physical face of acute stress:

During a period of intense stress, long term anxiety symptoms may appear pallor, tremors, heavy sweat, malaise, a lump in the throat, tightness in the chest, the knot in the stomach, digestive spasms, cold extremities.

After stress, it is common to be exhausted both physically and psychically. The gestures are slow and heavy, the voice is altered, a feeling of euphoric relief appears at the same time as a loss of evaluation and memorizing abilities. This is why we must always avoid, after overcoming a grave danger, to relax completely: it is the phenomenon of over accident.

Body and minds intimately linked:

As a result of a traumatic event or a repetition of failures, stress sets in and threatens the balance of the body.

Most often, the effects of prolonged stress begin to be felt on the psyche, and physical manifestations appear: heart palpitations, pain, and tension (in the jaw, neck or back), asthenia (state of general fatigue), difficulty falling asleep, awakenings at night, vertigo, dyspnoea (difficulty breathing), nausea, bloating.

The harmful effects of stress on the physical:

The hormonal storm triggered by stress is not harmful to the body if the situation is regularized, either because the stressors have disappeared, or because the person concerned has to cope.

On the other hand, if the tension persists, the stress hormones are likely to alter the physical health of the individual. The nervous system, by being solicited, reacts excessively and exhausts the natural reserves of the body.


The resources of the mind:

Biological mechanisms alone are not enough to handle a stressful event. Indeed, the body provides substances to move quickly to action or to hold the shock.

It is then necessary to mobilize psychic resources. The mind governs motivation, fighting spirit, self-control, and self-confidence.

The psyche in the face of different stress:

During acute stress, we instantly raise our level of alertness and focus our attention on the danger. All the senses are on alert. Psychic phenomena can appear:
  • A feeling of unreality of what has just happened.
  • A painful psychic tension with lucid awareness of the lived situation.
Conversely, in chronic stress, the following psychological disorders can disturb you: rumination of daily worries, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, empty headache, anxiety, hyperemotivity, agitation, feverishness, inhibition, inability to react to events, sensations of blockage of any initiative.

The harmful effects of stress on the psyche:

After stress, it is said that emotion falls. There is a loss of any emotional control (possible crying, impulses ...). It is impossible to mobilize to act. If the stress persists again and no one is in support a loss of self-confidence can support.

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