Saturday, October 15, 2011

How Mental Stress And Anxiety Can Affect Physical Health

When one has a lot of stress and anxiety and they don't know how to deal with it then their body will undergo physical changes as it starts to get hit with a barrage of external anxiety·producing experiences. The natural response for the physical changes within the body is for protection. When suddenly faced with a dangerous situation, the anxious person actually becomes physically prepared to respond by either assaulting the source of stress or running from it. This is commonly referred to as the "fight or flight" response and is accompanied by a release or hormones called corticosteroids. The purpose of these intense hormones is to constrict the blood veins in the outermost parts of the body which drives the extra volume towards the brain and also feeds the larger muscles in preparation for extra reserve strength. The heart starts to rev up, the digestive system halts, breathing is intensified, and muscles get tense.

The fight or flight response plays out in distinct stages of progression. The first stage is the initial alarm stage as just described. If the impending doom one suddenly faces is dissipated just as fast then the alarm stage goes into reverse mode and the physiological changes that were taking place are ceased and the body resumes it's normal functions. However, if the source of anxiety, or danger continues, a secondary stage shows up in more of a confrontational mode. The physical changes in the muscles, digestion, and breathing continue in their elevated state. When this confrontational stage persists due to prolonged anxiety or the threat of danger continues indefinitely, the heightened physical state begins to take it's toll on the body and it becomes overstressed. At this point, many of it's functions start to shut down.

Mental Health

Many people react differently to stress and anxiety by amplifying some of the physical changes mentioned while experiencing none of the others due to the variety of external stimuli and simple hereditary factors. The reactions of some individuals focus primarily on the musculatory system, some on the circulatory, some on the digestive tract, and some simply succumb to full blown panic attacks. Those with the muscle focused reactions are continually stressing the connective tissue in the back, neck, and shoulders leading to tension headaches. Eventually, this stress heads towards the lower back causing the often heard of "lower back pain." This is actually the root of the most prevalent cases of back pain.

These people lose the ability to relax and are constantly plagued by that "nagging backache" and begin endless quests to ease the pain. This becomes a vicious cycle as the source of the pain due to constant stress and anxiety is not addressed but more often, just the relief of the pain itself. People who's stress is more focused in the torso area become affected by colitis, ulcers, and other digestive anomalies due to the constant tension within the stomach and intestinal tract. Individuals who are more affected in the circulatory system by ongoing fear and anxiety become victims to the indescribable pain of the migraine headache. This happens when the extra supply of blood is forced into the brain which increases pressure on the blood vessels in the cranial area. These vessels are then stressed beyond what they are designed for and the migraine headache arrives. In addition, since the blood is redirected from the outer extremities during a prolonged stressful situation, the hands and feet remain constantly chilled.

Ongoing studies indicate long term exposure of reactions to stress and anxiety can suppress immunity making the body susceptible to a host of life threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes and even cancer.

How Mental Stress And Anxiety Can Affect Physical Health

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