Stress Effects on the Body MH Author: SENIOR ACCREDITED PSYCHOTHERAPIST LONDON UK

Emotions are frequently associated with secondary physical symptoms. The classic examples are anxiety and depression . The physical symptoms have their origin in our stress system. Stress has physical as well as psychological components. Resilience has as much to do with managing the former as the latter. So how does stress manifest itself in the body and why?

AS human beings evolved , survival was the priority . Threat were initially mainly physical , so the body developed lightning -fast reflexes to be able to detect and deal with the dangers inherent in its environment. The whole body had to be able to gear up instantly to face such threats , and evolution created our internal stress system to organise such a response .

Sometimes the threats would go on for longer periods , so we had to be able to keep this system on high alert during such episodes . We also had to switch it off for periods , so we could eat and relax.

In general, a person’s stress system dealt well with these situations during our ancestors’ time . Firstly, they might encounter a threat to their life or that of their family , and would have to stand and fight. Secondly, they might encounter situations where they would clearly be fearful for their life if they hung around, so they would flee. Thirdly , they might be under sustained threat for a longer period- whether that involved looking for food or being under sustained attack from enemies . In all cases, the stress system had to be able to switch on the appropriate response, the main thrust of which was to keep them and their family alive. The central controller had to be the brain. It had the job of deciding when to activate or calm down their responses to such stressors.

Whenever we encounter any form of stress , either acute or more prolonged ,the body initiates a cascade of automatic internal psychological responses.

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