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Psychology - Essay Example

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Great stress, if interfere with your ability to live a normal life, suppresses the immune system – which lowers the body’s resistance to disease. Some of the diseases include cardiovascular disease, hypertension,…
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THE GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME How do stress and our response to it translate into disease? Great stress, if interfere with your ability to live a normal life, suppresses the immune system – which lowers the body’s resistance to disease. Some of the diseases include cardiovascular disease, hypertension, headaches, back pain, ulcers, and some cases of cancer.
Canadian physiologist Hans Selye (1976) proposed a pattern known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). He noticed that the first symptoms of almost any disease or trauma (poisoning, infection, injury, or stress) are almost similar. Selye’s studies showed that the body responds in the same way to any stress, be it positive events (new job) or negative circumstances (failure, embarrassment, trouble at school, a stormy romance).
The GAS consist of three stages: an alarm reaction, a stage of resistance, and a stage of exhaustion (Selye, 1976)
ALARM STAGE: Alarm stage suggests that the body is in the generalized arousal state, wherein the body mobilizes its resources to cope with stressors. The pituitary gland signals the adrenal glands to produce and release stress hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. As these stress hormones are dumped into the bloodstream, some bodily processes are rushed others are slowed, allowing bodily resources to be applied where they are needed.
We should all be thankful that our bodies automatically respond to emergencies. However, brilliant as this emergency system is, it can also cause problems. In the first phase of the alarm reaction, people have such symptoms as headache, fever, fatigue, sore muscles, shortness of breath, diarrhea, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and lack of energy. Notice that these are also the symptoms of stressful travel, of high-altitude sickness, of anxiety, of pressure in the courtroom interrogation, or final exams week, and possibly of falling in love!
RESISTANCE STAGE: During the resistance stage, the body continues to resist the stressors. As the body’s defenses come into balance, symptoms of the alarm reaction disappear. Outwardly, everything seems normal. However, this appearance of normality comes at a high cost. The body is better able to cope with the original stressor, example, animals placed in extreme cold become more resistant to the cold, but more susceptible to infection. It is during the stage of resistance that the first signs of psychosomatic disorders begin to appear.
EXHAUSTION STAGE: Continued stress leads to the stage of exhaustion in which the body’s resources are drained and stress hormones are depleted. The body is susceptible to disease and even death in this stage. Unless you found a way of relieving stress, the result will be a psychosomatic disease, a serious loss of health, or complete collapse.
The GAS may sound melodramatic if you are young and healthy or if you have never endured prolonged stress. However, stress should not be taken lightly. When Selye examined animals in the later stage of the GAS, he found discoloration and enlargement of their adrenal glands. There was intense shrinkage of internal organs, such as the thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes, and many animals had bleeding stomach ulcers. In addition, stressed person had hard time organizing their thoughts, difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
Common signs of stress were teeth clenching, hand wringing, pacing, nail biting, and heavy breathing. Stressed people also feel physically different and their outward behavior changed. Physiological effects of stress include butterflies in the stomach, cold hands and feet, dry mouth, and increased heart rate.
However, social support (family members and friends), biofeedback technique, muscular relaxation and meditation, and aerobic exercise can help relieve the stress of every day life.
R E F E R E N C E
Auerbach, Stephen and Sandra E. Gramling, "Stress (psychology)." Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
"Stress-Related Disorders." Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2005.
Selye, Hans. “The Nature of Stress.” ICNR International Center for Nutritional Research, Inc. 18 July 2006 Read More
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