Whether it’s stressful events or long-term situations that overwhelm our natural coping mechanisms, virtually everyone will experience stress at some point in their lives. Personally, I’ve never met anyone who confirmed that they never experienced stress in some form. In one poll, 89% of respondents indicated that they had experienced acute stress. Some people are biologically more prone to stress than others; however, many outside factors influence vulnerability as well.
Disorders that are most likely to produce stress-related problems:
- A build-up of constant stressful situations, especially those that these persons cannot easily control, e.g. a high-pressure job together with an unhappy relationship.
- Chronic stress that persists after a traumatic event.
- Acute stress together with a serious illness, e.g. heart disease.
People respond to stress differently, depending on different factors:
- Early nurturing: People who were abused as children may have long-term abnormalities in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (which regulates stress).
- Personality characteristics: Some people may have personality characteristics that cause them to over-respond to stressful events, e.g. those who are neurotic may get stressed more easily and turn to dangerous behaviours such as smoking and heavy drinking as a result. Being more outgoing (extrovert) and aware of the world may improve a person’s response to stress by lowering levels of stress-related inflammatory hormones.
- Genetic factors: Some people have genetic factors that affect stress, e.g. having a more efficient, or less efficient relaxation response.
- Immune-controlled diseases: Some diseases that are normally associated with immune abnormalities, e.g. eczema, may weaken the response to stress.
- The length and quality of stressors: The longer the duration and the more intense the stressors, the more harmful the effects.
Individuals at higher risk for stress:
- Older adults: As people age, the relaxation response after acute stress becomes less effective. The elderly are often exposed to major stressors, e.g. medical problems, loss of a spouse and financial worries.
- Divorced or widowed individuals: Many studies have shown that unmarried people generally do not live as long as their married peers.
- Anyone experiencing financial pressure, particularly those with long-term unemployment and those without medical aids.
- People who are isolated and lonely.
- People who live in cities, where crime rates are higher, where they are stuck in traffic every morning and afternoon and where they generally suffer from fast-paced living.
Next week we will look at childhood stress factors.
Until next week,
All information in this blog was researched for this blog, and is not intended for self-diagnosis or to be used as medical advice. All medical questions should be directed to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or pharmacist.
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