Understanding Chronic Stress

how-stress-affects-the-body-1 The HPA system is activated to regulate stress when it becomes prolonged or unrelenting. When stress is chronic, the adrenal glands release cortisol. Cortisol responds to long-term constant stressors by keeping the body alert; however, the chronic response can have many harmful effects on many body systems. According to MacDonald, chronic stress is a persistent physical reaction to something constant in life and may relate to work, finances, family problems, abuse, disease, physical pain, diet, and/or smoking. (1).


Frequent or sustained activation of brain systems that respond to stress can lead to heightened vulnerability to a range of behavioral and physiological disorders affecting mental health. (Young). Stress places a higher demand on the body to meet the energy demands, but at a price. The body’s defenses are weakened, leaving it open to infection, and many other systems are affected.


Living under constant threats compromises the immune system and may likely cause physical ailments and impair fertility. (Towey). Ongoing stress makes a person more susceptible to illness and disease because the brain sends defense signals to the endocrine system. The endocrine system influences almost every cell, organ, and function of the body. (Goliszek). According to KidsHealth.org, the endocrine system is a collection of glands that plays a role in regulating mood, sleep, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, sexual function, immunity, homeostasis, and reproductive processes. (1). It is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles.  (Zimmermann). Once those defense signals are sent, the endocrine system then releases an array of hormones that severely depresses immunity. (Goliszek).

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