Stress Effects The Human Body

It's not all 'in your head'

Effects on the body are very real and varied and harmful

Any of the medical information provided here comes from the website Healthline (Healthline’s physicians, nurses, public health experts, and patient advocates help ensure that the information you receive is accurate, evidence based, current, and trustworthy).

Anxiety is a normal part of life, for example speaking in public, a job interview etc. are all normal times anxiety can manifest. However if it becomes excessive or persistent it can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.

Stressful life experiences can lead to an anxiety disorder of which there are several identified by the mental health community. Some of these disorders include: generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder,PTSD, OCD,phobias and panic disorder.

Central Nervous System
Long-term anxiety and panic attacks can cause your brain to release stress hormones on a regular basis. This can increase the frequency of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and depression.

When you feel anxious and stressed, your brain floods your nervous system with hormones and chemicals designed to help you respond to a threat. Adrenaline and cortisol are two examples.

While helpful for the occasional high-stress event, long-term exposure to stress hormones can be more harmful to your physical health in the long run. For example, long-term exposure to cortisol can contribute to weight gain.

Cardiovascular System
Anxiety disorders can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations, and chest pain. You may also be at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have heart disease, anxiety disorders may raise the risk of coronary events.

Digestive System
Anxiety also affects your excretory and digestive systems. You may have stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can also occur.

There may be a connection between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after a bowel infection. IBS can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

Respiratory System
Anxiety causes rapid, shallow breathing. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may be at an increased risk of hospitalization from anxiety-related complications. Anxiety can also make asthma symptoms worse.

Immune System
Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system.

In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. This prepares you to respond appropriately to an intense situation. Your immune system may even get a brief boost. With occasional stress, your body returns to normal functioning when the stress passes.

But if you repeatedly feel anxious and stressed or it lasts a long time, your body never gets the signal to return to normal functioning. This can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses. Also, your regular vaccines may not work as well if you have anxiety.

Questions to ponder in light of the current pandemic

How many people have been subjected to extreme stress these past two months with the measures implemented by the pandemic response. Losing your job, not being able to put food on the table or paying your rent probably rank high on the stress inducing scale.

According to Healthline stress can impact both your respiratory and immune system which likely increase your chances of a bad outcome should you contract some virus (covid-19 or not).

Are the health authorities both in British Columbia and nationally taking into account what the long term health impacts are likely to be, based on the current course of 'treatment'?

Dr. Phil On Covid-19 Comments