Stress and Its Effect on the Immune System
The Brain's Response to Acute Stress
In response to a stressor, a part of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system is activated.
HPA system: when the hypothalamus
experiences the stressor signal, it simultaneously activates
the two major stress pathways: the autonomic nervous system
and the endocrine system. At the same time, the pituitary
gland is stimulated, which in turn orders the release of
several chemical hormones.
Response by the Heart, Lungs, and Circulation to Acute Stress
As the stress becomes stronger (imagine you are standing in the middle of a street and a fast driving car is approaching), the heart rate and blood pressure increase instantaneously.
The Immune System's Response to Acute Stress
The effect on the immune system from confrontation with the car is similar to marshaling a defensive line of soldiers to potentially critical areas.
This whole process is called: General Adaptation Syndrome
This is also called "Positive Stress" as short-term stressors boost the immune system. It seems that the "fight or flight" response prompts the immune system to ready itself for infections resulting from bites, punctures, scrapes or other challenges to the integrity of the body.
The Body's Response to Chronic Stress
Chronic, long-term stress suppresses the immune system. The physical problems related to chronic stress include the lowering of the immune response, chronic muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. These problems can eventually lead to serious life-threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, kidney disease, and cancer. Holmes and Rahe and others have found that individuals who have undergone several stressful life events over a year's time have a much higher probability of developing these types of serious illness, within a few years of the events, than non-stressed individuals. During the middle 1970s, research by Mason et al. And Lazarus demonstrated that vast individual differences exist in how individuals respond to stress-producing stimuli.
In reaching these conclusions researches
look at the effects of the various stressors on different
immune responses, such as natural and specific
immunity. Researchers summarized the results of the studies
that looked at each of these types of stress:
The body takes a few days to mount a more specific attack on particular invaders with specific immunity. This response includes lymphocytes (T-cells and B cells). Specific immunity has both cellular responses, which fight pathogens that get inside cells (such as viruses), and humoral responses, which fight pathogens that stay outside cells, such as bacteria and parasites. Segerstrom and Miller were able to assess how different types of immune response correlated with different types of stress because researchers have identified the blood markers of these different immune responses.
It was also found that age and disease status affected a person's vulnerability to stress-related decreases in immune function. It seems that illness and age make it harder for the body to regulate itself.
Some health problems in detail that may be caused by stress:
Susceptibility to Infections
Chronic stress appears to blunt the immune response and increase the risk for infections and may even impair a person's response to immunizations. A number of studies have shown that subjects under chronic stress have low white blood cell counts and are vulnerable to colds. And once any person catches a cold or flu, stress can exacerbate symptoms. People who harbor herpes or HIV viruses may be more susceptible to viral activation following exposure to stress. Even more serious, some research has found that HIV-infected men with high stress levels progress more rapidly to AIDS when compared to those with lower stress levels. (In some studies, stressful events most linked with a higher incidence of infections were interpersonal conflicts, such as those at work or in a marriage.)
The contradictory effects of stress on the immune system can have mixed effects on autoimmune diseases (which are those that are caused by inflammation and damage from immune attacks on the body). For example, eczema, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis may demonstrate changes ranging from improvement to deterioration in response to stress. A 2001 study reported that short-term stress appears to have no negative effect on multiple sclerosis, but chronic stress is a major risk factor for flare-ups.
Known Diseases Caused by Chronic Stress
A major component in the functions of the immune system is the adrenaline gland. Bear with me, we are coming closer to the answer of your question: "what has this all to do with headshaking?" Next page
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