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Stimuli that alter an organism’s environment are responded to by multiple systems in the body. Elliot and Eisdorfer suggests five types of stress. The five types of stress are labeled “acute time-limited stressors”, “brief naturalistic stressors”, “stressful event sequences”, “chronic stressors”, and “distant stressors”. An acute time-limited stressor involves a short term challenge, while a brief naturalistic stressor involves an event that is normal but nevertheless challenging. A stressful event sequence is a stressor that occurs, and then continues to yield stress into the immediate future. A chronic stressor involves exposure to a long-term stressor, and a distant stressor is a stressor that isn’t immediate. This section may need to be cleaned up.
There likely is a connection between stress and illness. According to these studies, both acute and chronic stress can lead to changes in behavior and in physiology. Behavioral changes can include smoking, changes in eating habits and physical activity. However, there is much variability in the link between stress and illness. The HPA axis is subject to negative feedback regulation as well. The release of CRH and VP are regulated by descending glutaminergic and GABAergic pathways from the amygdala, as well as noradrenergic projections.
Increased cortisol usually acts to increase blood glucose, blood pressure, and surpasses lysosomal, and immunological activity. Under other circumstances, however, the activity may differ. Increased cortisol also favors habit based learning, by favoring memory consolidation of emotional memories. In recent works, it is considered as an internal coordinate on the “dominant path” in the model of adaptation. Stress can make the individual more susceptible to physical illnesses like the common cold.
Stressful events, such as job changes, may result in insomnia, impaired sleeping, and physical and psychological health complaints. This is particularly true regarding chronic stressors. These are stressors that may not be as intense as an acute stressor like a natural disaster or a major accident, but they persist over longer periods of time. These types of stressors tend to have a more negative effect on health because they are sustained and thus require the body’s physiological response to occur daily.
For example, studies have found that caregivers, particularly those of dementia patients, have higher levels of depression and slightly worse physical health than noncaregivers. It has long been believed that negative affective states, such as feelings of anxiety and depression, could influence the pathogenesis of physical disease. Chronic stress can include events such as caring for a spouse with dementia, or it results from brief focal events that have long term effects, such as experiencing a sexual assault. Even though psychological stress is often connected with illness or disease, most healthy individuals can still remain disease-free after being confronted with chronic stressful events. In addition, the age at which the stress is experienced can dictate its effect on health. Research suggests chronic stress at a young age can have lifelong effects on the biological, psychological, and behavioral responses to stress later in life.