Sunday, February 3, 2013

Stress ad my experience

I found this week’s reading regarding stress and health particularly interesting largely because I’ve notices a trend in myself that whenever I am particularly stressed I inevitably get sick. I had never heard of the hormone cortisol before but its broad functions described by the book as well as the relationship described by the study of the Dominican community demonstrate just how important it is. As a child, both of my parents were ill and my health suffered. This correlates with the books description of the rise in cortisol during events that are associated with uncertainty and these are also considered “High-stress events”. The book goes on to mention this stress response system is associated with short term events and may be potentially harmful in the long run. While this is a good explanation for why I was frequently sick it would vary for other kids because this cortisol response is not a constant for everyone. This is interesting because it means that making broad hypotheses about cortisol responses are not necessarily applicable and predicting the evolution of these responses is even more difficult. The book ends the chapter by saying that afflictions like cancer, atherosclerosis, infectious disease and others are associated with social stress. Considering that my family stress was caused by cancer it would be far too ironic for the outcome of my stress to also be cancer. The book also describes how we have evolved to associate feelings and thoughts with social relationships. Knowing the results of the stress associated with this is this a helpful adaptation? What created this kind of social stress relationship?


  1. Good Analysis/Blog Cara!

    The reading for this week was very interesting in regards to stress levels on a biological level in the form of cortisone production in relation to health, social and physical environments, behavioral activities, and stress response (257). I agree with Cara when she stated, “ Whenever I am particularly stressed I inevitably get sick”. I can personally agree with this because I grew up in several foster homes, and I encountered many forms of abuse. As I read chapter 13, I started to recollect the many times that I had the flu (three times) during childhood, became uncontrollably anorexic (lack of appetite), fainted walking to school, and I remember many times that I easily became sick any time of the year with the, “common cold”. After reading this chapter, I assumed that the sickness that I continued to have was due to a continuation of an over stressful environment (Foster parents/homes), as well as a host of other factors as well.

    I have personally learned about cortisol in previous courses, and how it increases blood glucose, and suppresses the immune system during responses to stress. I did not know that “Depletion of energy reserves, and damage to parts of the brain” (248) was a result of having a large production of Cortisol. I also didn’t know that, “In some cases, chronically stressed children had blunted response to physical activities that normally evoked cortisol elevation” (252). That statement was interesting because, that may be the reason why I never respond, “Normally” to high stressed situation as my fellow University friends (could never explain my lack of surprise, or fear in similar situations as my peers) sometimes I’m numb to stressful situations.

    Cara, I remember reading a section in the book that mentioned that the short-term response might be potentially harmful in the long term. I was hoping to read more about stress and mental health, but I soon realized that that is for next week readings. And cortisol responses may not be constant for every one, because everyone does not live in the same environment, and everyone does not experience the same stressors. So therefor the cortisol levels may range in different levels depending on the person, their environment, SES, mental health, and so forth.

    The last chapter also stated something interesting to me. “Coping with social problems, however, can have significant health consequences ranging from dysregulation of emotional control and increased risk of psychopathology”. I was wondering if an stressful environment caused the mental disparities, or does mental disparities cause a stressful environment?

    By the way: I thought I completely read this chapter, but I don’t understand why the title is, “Why Words Can Hurt Us”…can anyone explain that to me please?

  2. Like you, I do notice that stressful situations and illness seem to coincide rather frequently for me. I remember discussing this in a high school health class--we discussed the ways in which stress weakens the immune system, but I did not learn about cortisol until later. Even then, I only really associated it with stress-related weight gain around the middle, not necessarily with decreasing the immune response.

    I absolutely agree you that it's difficult to generalize a cortisol response across huge populations. I think it's important to realize that any illness is usually not the result of one factor, but of the combination of multiple factors. I've been wired to believe that just about everything is a result, in part, of good or bad nutrition, and I think this makes a lot of sense when considering stress-related illnesses. Better nutrition usually leads to better functioning all around, including improved immune function and an increased ability to cope with stress. So while I know from experience that stress can absolutely lead to illness, I believe it's important to look at other factors as triggers because of the way they can either help manage stress or cause it.

    In my personal experience, I've noticed that by improving certain aspects of my life like my nutrition and exercise, I've been able to recover from illness faster and feel less stressed simultaneously. I think the most we can do in terms of avoiding these stress-related illnesses is to keep other aspects of our lives as healthy as possible, because when we do this, everything else seems to fall into place and we're better able to cope with stressful situations.