Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Chronic Effects of Stress

This blog post is in response to Cara’s post regarding her experience with stress.

An article from Science Daily describes the relationship between stress and some chronic diseases. What we are likely most familiar with is the link between stress and depression. Chronic stress can wear down on an individual’s body. Not only does that individual feeling stressed out, but their body feels the effects as well. People recovering from depression are more likely to relapse to their disheartened state if they are afflicted with stress. The things that often stress us out the most are social stressors. These can include, but are not limited to, work and family issues. Not only does stress lead to depression, but it can also lead to cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes. This link has been demonstrated in medical studies.

One connection I found much less intuitive was that between stress and HIV/AIDS. This relationship is not completely clear, but some key findings have been made. When the body is under stress, the nerve system is affected in a way that allows more copies of the HIV virus to be made. It is possible that this may lead to the onset of AIDS more quickly compared to a person who is not under stress. While this connection may not be completely clear, a couple of things are with regards to the link between stress and chronic disease. For one, stressed individuals act differently than those who are not stressed. They may lose sleep over stress or eat unhealthier foods. In addition to these behavioral implications are changes in biological processes in the body. The immune system is one such affected system. Stress affects individuals more than temporarily. The chronic effects may not be apparent to us now, but they could be before we know it.

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