Monday, January 11, 2010

The Effects of Stress

Stress is a term in psychology and biology, first coined in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become a commonplace of popular parlance. It refers to the consequence of the failure of an organism – human or animal – to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined.

Stress symptoms commonly include a state of alarm and adrenaline production, short-term resistance as a coping mechanism, and exhaustion, as well as irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physiological reactions such as headache and elevated heart rate.

The problems become larger, when negative effects of stress starts to take hold, just right before the person realize about this.

Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral. Signs include poor judgment, a general negative outlook, excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely, isolated or depressed, aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough, sleeping too much or not enough, social withdrawal, procrastination or neglect of responsibilities, increased alcohol, nicotine or drug consumption, and nervous habits such as pacing about or nail-biting.

Stress can significantly affect many of the body's immune systems, as can an individual's perceptions of, and reactions to, stress. The term psychoneuroimmunology is used to describe the interactions between the mental state, nervous and immune systems, as well as research on the interconnections of these systems. Immune system changes can create more vulnerability to infection, and have been observed to increase the potential for an outbreak of psoriasis for people with that skin disorder.

Chronic stress has also been shown to impair developmental growth in children by lowering the pituitary gland's production of growth hormone, as in children associated with a home environment involving serious marital discord, alcoholism, or child abuse.

In summary, distress can have a number of negative effects. These range from minor problems, such as fatigue, insomnia and irritability, to full-blown depression. Some consequences, such as poorer concentration, forgetfulness, mental blocks and lowered attention span, negative behaviours, may also be cognitive. Other effects of stress can include greater risk of accidents, alcohol and drug abuse and explosive temper losses. Increased occupational stress may also have an impact on marital relationships. In some cases, sustained exposure to high levels of distress can lead to complete psychological burnout. In a few extreme cases, severe distress can eventually kill people.