Stress and illness

Simon Doyle
Stress and illness

Stress is not a negative in itself. Stress is an adaptive response of the body to the changing environment in which we live. This adaptive response has been our best ally for survival as living beings in a changing environment that demands a series of resources to adapt, generating the stress response in our body..

Stress is something totally subjective that differs as much as individuals who suffer from it. It depends on the way we perceive the situation and above all, on the coping resources that we have.

Humanity is divided into countless roles, workers, couples, unemployed, caregivers with a multitude of realities and continuous problems that no longer have a quick solution, but extended over time, making the natural reaction adaptively set in motion to face dangers and situations. adverse, it ends up becoming harmful when the sense of alarm does not stop, but the stress is not always negative.


  • Positive stress vs negative stress
  • Stress and illness
  • Stress at work
    • References

Positive stress vs negative stress

Positive stress, or eustress, is that stress that stimulates us to face problems. It increases our creativity and our ability to face problems, helping us to respond efficiently to those situations that require it. On the other hand, we would find negative distress or stress as the response that a person has to a situation that overcomes it. This type of stress causes tiredness, fatigue and psychological exhaustion. It is the best known stress and is very harmful to health, both physical and mental, with an unquestionable relationship with the disease.

Stress and illness

Stress has a negative influence on the development of cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, strokes, especially digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, as well as depression, anxiety, etc..

Authors such as Sternberg from the University of Arizona show the influence of the neurological and endocrine systems -the most related to stress- on the immune system.

The immune system reduces its effectiveness in situations of sustained stress, not getting sick by itself, but limiting immune functioning and exposing ourselves more severely to external attacks.

The brain interprets a situation as stressful (working more hours than normal without breaks). The hypothalamus, the brain structure responsible for coordinating behaviors related to survival, sends electrical signals to the pituitary gland and this, in turn, sends the hormone ACTH to the adrenal glands where cortisol and adrenaline are released. High levels of cortisol in the blood produce changes in the leukocytes responsible for fighting potential diseases, in addition to reducing the production and action of cytokines, responsible for starting the immune response.

Studies by Ronald Glaser of the University of Ohio conclude that stress and discouragement cause the immune system to malfunction. Stressed individuals, he says, suffer from sleep disorders, eating and gastric problems, reducing positive activities such as sports. The muscular tension that occurs in stress episodes, ends up turning into contractures and back pain, also increasing the incidence of headaches and concentration problems.

Stress at work

The world of work is not alien to stress and its negative consequences. The Burnout syndrome or being burned by work, would be defined as a response to work stress characterized by the negative way in which professionals assess their way of carrying out their work, as well as their way of relating to the people they serve, caused by the feeling of being emotionally drained. In organizations where the concern for the quality of work life of their workers is zero, greater problems of this syndrome are observed, as well as an increase in the percentage of absenteeism, sick leave, decrease in productivity and quality of work.

Stress is a problem that sooner or later can affect us in life, so information and knowing how it works is important. On many occasions, stress can be behind many health problems, even without knowing what causes it.

It is essential to understand that we are human and that a too hectic pace of life, wanting to keep everything under control or not resting will certainly never lead to stress and illness. Perhaps we consider normal the tension that your day to day causes you and you resign yourself to suffering it, but it is convenient for you to know the limits of your body and know that sooner or later, we will end up paying for the excesses.


Bloom, F.E. i Lazerson, A. (1988). Brain, Mind, and Behavior. New York: Freeman and Company.

Bradford, H.F. (1988). Fundamentals of neurochemistry. Barcelona: Labor.

Del Abril, A .; Ambrosio, E .; De Blas, M.R .; Caminero, A .; De Pablo, J.M. i Sandoval, E. (eds) (1999). Biological basis of behavior. Madrid: Sanz and Torres.

Selye, H. (1960). The tension in life. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Cía. General Fabril

Selye, H. (Ed.). (1980). Selye's guide to stress research. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold

Tobeña, A. (1997). Harmful stress. Madrid: Aguilar.

Valdés, M. & Flores, T. (1990). Psychobiology of stress (2nd ed. Actual.). Barcelona: Martínez Roca

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