What Happens to Our Body During Stress

Imagine that you are passing an exam that will end in an hour but you haven’t done even half of the assignments. If you don’t get a good score, you won’t be able to apply. Your heart begins to beat faster, beads of sweat trickle down the forehead, and the body is seized with heat.

An important exam, sex with a loved one, or burning deadlines – the thought of it just flashed in your head, and your heart is already beating like you are a marathon runner. The pancreas secretes hormones into the bloodstream, and the nervous system is ready to give the command “Fight!”. This is how our body reacts to stress.

There is good and bad stress. The second one can lead to numerous health issues, including drug addiction. Before googling “professional rehab near me“ read this article, in which we discuss whether meditation can help you cope with stress, what its consequences are, how hormones turn people into superheroes, and why stress isn’t always a bad thing.

What is stress

Stress is the body’s response to the action of strong factors, which are called stressors. For example, it could be a meeting with a loved one after separation, or severe pain in the leg after an unsuccessful penalty.

The body’s response to a stressor begins with the brain. It sends signals to the sympathetic nervous system, which turns on when we are threatened or we experience strong emotions.

Imagine that you are crossing the road, but an SUV is rushing straight at you. Fear turns on the sympathetic nervous system – it sends signals to the adrenal glands, and they release catecholamine and adrenaline into the blood – hormones that strengthen the body’s systems within a few seconds (we’ll talk about them later!). They speed up energy metabolism by providing fuel for stress responses, such as jumping off a car rushing towards you in time.

The SUV disappeared around the corner, and you are standing on the sidewalk safe and sound. The danger has passed, and the body needs to recover from severe stress – the parasympathetic nervous system turns on. It controls the work of digestion after a hearty meal, slows down the heartbeat, and generally calms the body.

The parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems in a healthy person never work together: you cannot run and relax at the same time. Parasympathetic and sympathetic nerve endings from the brain go to the same organs but cause opposite reactions. To differentiate the work of the nervous system, the body has special mechanisms. For example, areas of the brain that activate the work of one part of the nervous system inhibit those areas that are responsible for the work of another.

Stages of stress

In the 1930s, Hungarian physiologist Hans Selye studied hormones. He studied the functions of the ovarian extract in laboratory rats, but this is not what the scientist became famous for: his work became the basis for the whole science of stress, and the concept he developed is still generally accepted today.

In an experiment, Selye administered injections of cow ovaries to laboratory rats: he wanted to test how the substance affects animals. After the autopsy, he was amazed at the picture he saw: the adrenal cortex increased, the lymphatic system atrophied, and ulcers appeared in the stomach and duodenum. The same organ damage was observed in rats from the control group, which were injected with a salt solution. The young scientist understood: the culprit of what happened was not an injection, but something else.

Selye continued his research. He suggested that physiological changes in organs are not associated with the substance, but with the very process of injection, painful and painful. To test the hypothesis, Selye put the rats in various extreme conditions: he let the animals out on the roof of the university in winter, took them to the basement, where they burned with the heat from the boiler room, and left them on the treadmill under constant physical exertion. The results were already familiar to him: an enlarged adrenal cortex, ulcers, and an atrophied lymphatic system.

In 1936, Selye published his research in the scientific journal Nature. To describe the conditions in which the animals were during the experiment, the scientist used the term “stress”. Experiments on rats have shown that biological responses (later known as General Adaptation Syndrome or Selye Syndrome) to “noxious agents,” such as the common cold or excessive physical exertion, have a stereotypical three-phase nature. The initial phase of anxiety was accompanied by a stage of resistance, which ultimately led to exhaustion if the exposure to the damaging agent continued.

Stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol

The brain fires up the stress response components of the system not only during a stressful event, but also when you are just thinking about it.

It all starts with the hypothalamus, which secretes several hormones, and the main one is CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone). Once in the pituitary gland, it triggers the secretion of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which controls the peripheral glands: the adrenal glands, pancreas, thyroid and gonads.

At this time, the sympathetic nervous system releases the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which activates various organs – for example, makes the heart beat faster. The nervous system sends signals to the adrenal cortex to start producing adrenaline. This hormone makes our body react quickly to a stressful situation: to increase sweating and speed up metabolism. But adrenaline only lives in the blood for a few seconds, so if the stress response needs to be sustained longer, glucocorticoids do the trick.

During stress, the production of certain hormones, such as growth hormone, insulin and sex hormones, is inhibited: when you run away from robbers, there is no time and energy to digest food or think about a loved one.

The consequences of stress

Addiction is a great attempt to eliminate stress, but in reality, the person faces even more problems. Despite the fact that a little stress relief for a while, the process is highly addictive, which means the following: the relief will not be very long-lasting and someday, to get rid of stress, you will need to use serious doses and google “drug rehab near me” afterwords.

From this point of view, it becomes clear that there are people who are most vulnerable to the development of drug addiction. As mentioned earlier, a relationship was established between stress and the development of the above-described ailment. If a person was treated harshly in childhood, he faced psychological, physical and emotional abuse, then soon he will have a predisposition to use drugs.

Childhood abuse is a stressful factor for a child who will constantly have problems as they grows up. There is no longer self-esteem and desire to achieve success. Of course, not every child subjected to child abuse becomes a drug addict, but conflicts with parents constantly push a person to try intoxicating substances and not look for help at drug rehab centers near me. Therefore, it is important to understand that stress does have its weight in the development of the disease. That is taken into account in different drug rehabs near me during the drug recovery.

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