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The most common type of stress is the short term and daily stress. Short term stress can originates from the perception of demands or from a prediction of one in the near future. Emotionally it may lead to feelings such as anxiety, excessive worry, irritability and even helplessness. Physical symptoms can include headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation, sweating and etc. These implications are short term and are easily managed. Some individuals perceive that their life consists of many pressures, frequent crises and obstacles. These individuals may experience the symptoms mentioned above for a somewhat longer term, however, when the stressors are perceived as constant, unrelenting, never-ending and extreme then the stress experienced starts to destroy the mind, spirit and body. A few examples of such stressors can be long term unemployment, failing marriage, debts or taking care of a family member with a chronic illness. Stressors that originate from childhood experiences or traumata and have changed core beliefs and/or personality traits increase the severity, intensity and complexity of the implications. When stress is persistently being perceived for a long time, even years then the body is stuck in the same hyper-arousal activation loop.

Stress prompts the release of hormones, which stimulate the immune system and prepare the body to quickly respond to injuries or short term illness. Chronic exposure to stress leads to the overstimulation of the immune system, which in time weakens the immune system. It becomes incapable of effectively preventing infection and diseases from developing. Highly stressed individuals, therefore, are more vulnerable to infections, illnesses and the worsening of pre-existing conditions. These hormones also speed up the heart rate, increase blood pressure, sustained high levels of cholesterol and/or other fatty substances in the blood, which lead to chest pain, heart palpitations, a heart attack and increased risk for having strokes. Long-lasting, recurrent, or intense stress reactions can also cause disorders such as ulcers, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, kidney disease and allergic reactions. The heart can also be damaged as a result of unhealthy coping strategies of dealing with the chronic stress such as overeating (obesity), smoking,drugs and drinking. Some people may lose their appetite and allot of weight. The simulation of the digestive system can cause diarrhea, stomach pains, acid reflexes and enhance a person’s vulnerability to developing Crohn’s disease. Stress also causes muscles tensions, which in time can lead to aches and pains especially in back, neck and the shoulders, muscular twitches, headaches and severe migraines. Persistent stress can also worsen skin problems (i.e. psoriasis, acne, rashes), contribute to hair loss; asthma attacks, insomnia, fatigue, menstrual disorders, erectile dysfunction or problems with premature ejaculation and/or infertility problems. It accelerates the aging process and some researchers claim can also influence the development of cancer (Aldwin, 2007; Cohen, Janicki-Deverts,& Miller, 2007; Sinha, 2008).

Functioning on a survival mode for a long time can psychologically lead to depression, low self-esteem, high anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, anger, feelings of being overwhelmed, social withdrawal or isolation. The chronically stressed may also experience confusion, memory problems, reduced precision, difficulty concentrating, trouble learning new information, struggle with decision-making and even become socially less sensitive. As a result daily functioning as well as job performance may drastically decline (Stawski, Sliwinski,& Smyth, 2009).In time, all physical and mental resources are exhausted(Cohen, Kessler, &Gordon ,1995) .Some individuals experience such despair, hopelessness and helplessness that they have suicide ideations and engage in self-destructive behaviours. The therapy is complicated, complex and it also needs to combine stress management. Some individuals may also require a medical intervention and supervision.

In reading these paragraphs one should also keep in mind that diseases and psychopathology emerge from the interaction of the severe stress and the individual’s vulnerabilities. Generally speaking, not in extreme complex cases, stress alone is not sufficient enough to produce a full blown disease and /or disorder. The individual’s vulnerability can be various genetic, cognitive, personality, biological, or situational factors (i.e. family history of heart disease, past infections, trauma etc). These vulnerability factors are stable and consistent over time but it does not imply that their impact cannot be changed at all (Ingram & Luxton, 2005). The vulnerability factors create a certain threshold that is individual specific. Individual differences imply a variety of levels of stress sensitivity. For example, one individual may develop illness from very low level of chronic stress while another will have no reaction to that stress level. The type of impact also originates from the type of predisposition one possesses. Once the stress causes to exceed that threshold, then the person will most probability develop a pathological state that he/she is most vulnerable to. The presence of protective factors (i.e. social support, emotional and cognitive capacities etc), however, can still mitigate the impact of the stress and prevent the onset of a pathology.

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Aldwin, C.M. (2007).Stress, Coping and Development: An Integrative Perspective.NY: Guilford Press.

Cohen S., Kessler, R.C., &Gordon, U.L. (1995) Strategies for measuring stress in studies of psychiatric and physical disorder(p.3-26). In: Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon UL, eds. Measuring Stress: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D.,& Miller, G.E. (2007).  Psychological Stress and Disease,JAMA. 298,14,1685-1687.

Ingram, R. E., & Luxton, D. D. (2005). “Vulnerability-Stress Models.” In B.L. Hankin & J. R. Z. Abela (Eds.), Development of Psychopathology: A vulnerability stress perspective (pp. 32-46). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage A Publications Inc.

Stawski,R.S., Sliwinski,M.J.,& Smyth.J.M.( 2009).The effects of an acute psychosocial stressor on episodic memory. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 21,6, 897–918.

Sinha, R. (2008). “Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1141, 105-130.

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