Sunday, February 3, 2013

Is it all in my head?

I think we've all been there before. Three exams and a paper due next week; oh and hello dreaded first sniffle. Society, especially within a college campus, seems to provide the perfect example for a direct correlation between stress levels and susceptibility to illness. As Chapter 13 put it, “children lacking social support, including parental warmth and other factors that influence emotional states, seem to be at risk” (245). It makes me wonder the role that emotions have over physical defense in fighting illnesses. Having studied pathogen and immune system interactions in biological courses, the fight against sickness seemed like a purely physical concern. Though I've always taken note of the relationship between one’s stress level and their bodily performance, it has just struck me that emotional states play a much larger role in health than I thought. If you feel better, will you simply be better at defending yourself? When purchasing Airborne last weekend, I got asked if the immune enhancer really worked or if it was all a gimmick. I didn't really know what to say, since I had just always thought it to be effective. Most times that I have taken it at the onset of a cold, I was able to divert the illness; however, now I am beginning to wonder if my actions actually triggered a physical response or if my mental state of “you did the right thing and all you could” led me to recovery.

What I found interesting in the Bwa Mawego study was that an early stressor in a child’s life actually carries through to older age when analyzing average cortisol levels. It supports the view that trauma actually has a heavy impact on a child’s mental and physical well-being (and that children don’t forget the traumatic events early in their life despite being young at the time). However, with there being no elevated cortisol levels in nonsocial situations when compared to children without early trauma, it seems as if the body remembers the situation as being a purely social disturbance and is able to separate it out from other aspects in life (255). 

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