The Stress & Health Vicious Circle

Stress causes or is a major factor in the development of many health and behavioural conditions. Even a small amount of stress can keep many condition’s alive. Stress stops balance being restored which prevents the body’s self-healing ability. The Stress response has a powerful biological effect on the body and on our behaviours. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Up to 90% of the doctor visits…may be triggered by a Stress-related illness”.

It is not a new concept that emotional wellbeing and ill health have a link.  Usually there is more than one factor at play when someone becomes ill.   Research suggests that only 5% of conditions are genetic. Most onsets fall into the following three categories.

  1. For some there was a period of pressure which was difficult to cope with, either physically, emotionally or mentally prior to the condition developing.  In situations like this the pressure will start to have a biological effect on the body as the stress response hormones become abnormal.
  2. Others come from fairly difficult family backgrounds where there was a lot of stress.  In situations like this, stress responses become abnormal from a young age, meaning that biologically you do not cope with stress well and eventually this can lead to conditions developing.
  3. Some people experienced an infection, toxin, illness or accident which led to the condition developing.  It is very likely that they were already suffering from abnormal stress responses or had become very stressed by the condition.

When under stress, the body’s fight or flight stress response is activated which means that stress hormones such as adrenaline and nor-adrenaline are sent into the body and too much effects health.  The brains is physically affected by the these hormones and it is possible to become over-sensitive to the slightest stressor, activating the stress response again.

Stress also enhances the  body’s ability to learn.  This is called ‘Implicit Memory’.  The body learns to respond by becoming so stressed it can do it without a person having to be consciously stressed.  As the pattern of stress becomes more powerful between the brain and the body, the stress response gets stronger and a Vicious Circle forms.

The fact that there there is a parallel between stress and the condition symptoms worsening means stress is a major factor in the illness. When the body is under stress it gets in the way of healing.

  • The body loses balance to stress
  • Abnormal stress hormones are firing, bringing physical, mental or emotional stress.
  • Thoughts become low, as does mood and physically the sufferer feels worse from being sick.
  • These low thought and mood continue to activate abnormal stress hormones which sets up a Stress Vicious Circle between the body and mind.
  • Once the Vicious Circle is activated enough it can do it on its own without conscious involvement which leads to stress and the body’s ‘implicit memory’ contributing to symptoms.
  • The sufferer has lost control to the condition.