Critically examine the mechanisms by which stress is thought to cause illness.

Essay by PaczekUniversity, Bachelor's March 2010

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When discussing the term stress, it is important to take in to account that it can be defined in many diverse ways. Within the fields of psychology including biology, stress is regarded as an unpleasant emotional or physical threat, to which the human organism is exposed to, consequently leading to a breakdown or severe distress including that of the body and mind.

Acknowledging that there are various ways in defining stress; hence why it is important to discriminate between stress; when it is being described as a cause - referring to the condition that threatens an individual's physical or psychological state and stress relating to the effect in which it produces distress to the individual's state (VanItaille, 2002). In order to comprehend stress becoming the cause of illness it is crucial that the mechanisms applied by the human body are observed as to how it responds to stressful situations is relevant to whether it will adapt and cope or lead to harmful health consequences.

Throughout this essay mechanisms of stress will be highlighted and discussed regarding how stress affects the health of individual's causing physical or psychological illnesses in the body. There has been a relative amount of research stating that stress causes chemical changes in the brain, leading to influential adjustments in the physical well-being of an individual suffering from high levels of stress (Selye, 1976).

During such stressful events the mind and body react in a certain way to protect itself from harm, applying the 'fight or flight' response (Canon, 1932), which is a basic survival instinct. This response instructs the body to release adrenaline; the hormone known to activate the body's defence mechanisms, inducing heart rate to increase, a rise in blood pressure and muscles to tense preparing the individual to respond appropriately to the...