Does Stress Cause Illness: Unveiling the Link

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Updated: Sep 04, 2023
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What is stress mean? Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Stress is when our brain is too overwhelmed, and we feel too tired from the pressure of life, such as the working pressure or the studying pressure. There are two kinds of stressors that will be discussed, including physiological stressors and psychological stressors.

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The primary cause of stress comes from pressure, conflict, and frustration.

Physiological Stressors

There are two kinds of stress that are physiological stressors and psychological stressors. According to the textbook, physiological stressors include extreme cold or heat, the invasion of dangerous microorganisms, and physical injury. For example, as a supervisor of CVS Pharmacy, the manager always wants to increase sales and improve customer service. The pressure from the workload and the responsivity of being a leader made me feel a headache and hurt my stomach when I did not reach the goal. The body sends a signal to me, and physiological stressors happen during the process of working.

Psychological Stressors

Psychological stressors come from emotions such as the death of a relative or friend, an upcoming exam, and being fired from a job. Besides, the psychological stressor is also defined as when a person feels unequipped to overcome a situation or has more negative thinking about the past, present, or future. For example, psychological stressors happen when we have a final exam this week. You don’t have enough time to study all chapters that cover the whole semester. You feel too stressed and pressured to handle and remember all lectures. This is a psychological stressor. For another instance, you had trouble with the loss of a loved one.

Causes of Stress

The cause of stress can come from many reasons in daily life. The pressure is one of the primary reasons because everyone has to set up a specific time to handle a job, homework, or mission. We can get stuck and stressed when the due day is coming soon. At this time, the psychological stressor happens because we are worrying about the due day. To reach the goal, the pressure can push us to spend more time, effort, and energy working. Thus, physiological stressors will happen when our body is overworked. The body can send a signal such as feeling a headache or hurting stomach. The second cause of stress is conflict, which is the inability to satisfy two or more incompatible motives. For instance, a relationship can happen more conflict between wife and husband, so they do not have a similar option in each communication. At this time, their relationship can come to an end from the reason of conflict and from the cause of psychological stressors. Last but not least, frustration is the cause of stress because of the obstruction of achieving a goal. This cause can be considered a psychological stressor when we cannot reach our goal.

Stages of Stress

The stages of stress include the alarm stage, resistance state, and exhaustion stage. The first stage is the alarm stage, characterized by intense sympathetic nervous system arousal (Chapter 12, the biology of Emotion and Stress). The alarm stage is also known as the fight or flight response. At this time, any physical, emotional, or mental upset is the cause of the alarm stage. If the stress is happening for the long term, the body’s resistance is affected by illness or disease. The signal from the alarm stage will send to all parts of the body, such as the eyes, muscles, and stomach. For example, my best friend often hurts their stomach when she feels frustrated in life or in emotion. I often give advice to her to reduce stress by going to the doctor, eating healthy food, or shopping. The alarm stage happened to warn us before everything got worse. If we are in the alarm stage, our nervous system is prepared to fight or flee. Our heart starts beating faster, which provides more blood or oxygen to our arms and legs (Vidhi Desai, Alarm Stage of Stress). In my real example, I used to be discriminated against when I met an old man on a bus. He touched my shoulder and said to me that “Come back to your country.” At this time, I only want to stand up and scream at him because of my self-esteem. However, my brain decided on the flight response by walking away from him and ignoring whatever he said. I asked myself what was wrong with him and why he said that. Although my emotional status at that time was extremely sad, I felt my heart beat faster and more blood be pumped into my limbs. The second stage of stress is resistance, when the alarm stage does not help us escape from a stressful situation, and the stressor continues.

According to the research on Boundless Anatomy and Physiology website, Resistance is the second stage of the general adaptation syndrome, where the body has an increased capacity to respond to the stressor. This kind of stage will be the result of stress maintenance because we cannot solve some stressful situations in a short time. The consequence of the resistance stage makes us adapt and live with a higher stress level. For instance, A couple relationship that I knew is Nancy and Tom. Nancy Nguyen is my best friend, and her boyfriend is Tom Tran. They have been in love for a year. However, they broke up because they did not understand each other. However, Nancy has always blamed herself until now because she did not solve the problem at that time. The more stress she has, the more she thinks negatively. Until now is one year since they broke up, and she still feels so sad and so stressed when she thinks about him. This situation showed that Nancy is living with a higher stress level day by day.

If the resistance stage continues for too long of a period without pauses to offset the effects of stress, this can lead to the exhaustion stage. Health problems and even death may occur. Our body will lose a lot of energy, as well as its ability to combat disease. For example, we cannot have any energy because we don’t eat and exercise during the process of stress. The lack of energy in the period of stress will make us feel exhausted even death may occur at any time. Some symptoms can be the consequence of the exhaustion stage, such as problems with digestion, the problem with reproduction, or getting sick easily.

Coping Strategies

Stress occurs daily in our lives. Stress can come from a variety of reasons, such as stress at work or in learning. How to reduce stress? Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. Stress can also be overcome in a short time by resting, relaxing, shopping, and having good time management. The stress will get worse if it has occurred for a long time. These three stages of stress are alarm, resistance, and exhaustion stage. In my opinion, stress should be solved in a short time because it affects too much in our life. Stress can be a big barrier for us to focus on what we want to do. The level of stress will increase, and the consequence of stress affects the body. A body without energy will make us get sick easily, and even death may occur. As an international student, I have much pressure in life when I have to live without my parent. I have to take care of myself when I am sick and when I am sad. I feel extreme stress for a few weeks. However, I solved my stress through self-motivation. Stress can cause you to have negative thoughts and make wrong decisions. With many pressure of life nowadays, people should understand the damage of stress to have many methods to reduce the level of stress in the shortest possible time to have a better life not only for yourself but also for the people around you.

Works Cited

  1. Selye, H. (1976). The Stress of Life. McGraw-Hill.
  2. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. Springer Publishing Company.
  3. American Psychological Association. (2020). Stress: The Different Kinds of Stress.
  4. McEwen, B. S. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European Journal of Pharmacology, 583(2-3), 174-185.
  5. Smith, M., & Segal, R. (2023). Stress Management: Self-Help Techniques for Dealing with Stress. HelpGuide.
  6. Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  7. Desai, V. (2018). Alarm Stage of Stress. Medium.
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Does Stress Cause Illness: Unveiling the Link. (2023, Jun 17). Retrieved from