The Effects of Stress

Stresson April 10th, 2014No Comments

92296_8905By Jorg  Thonnissen – Registered  Psychologist | Hypnotic Impact for Hypnotherapy In Perth

In summary, the effects of stress are many and varied and as Koozani () pointed out lead to a number physiological or psychological problems categorized as:

1.Stress-related disorders – i.e. all stress disorders can be considered a consequence of the excessive arousal of the limbic system,

2. Neuro-physiological changes– i.e. stress via the limbic system pathway potentially affects organs through activating excitatory (Post, Rubinow…1986) or inhibitory (Cain, 1992) neurotransmitters.

Furthermore prolonged stress can also affect the micromorphological brain structures of hippocampus and amygdala (Cain, 1992), as well as the nucleus of neurons therefore potentially altering genetic messages (Cain, 1992),

3.Cognitive changes – i.e. all psychological mechanisms such as cognition, emotions, memory, and attention can be affected by stress. For example, studies show that cognition and information processing are affected when stress reaches a certain threshold ().

Perceptual narrowing by which an individual focuses entirely on the source of the distress to the relative exclusion of other stimuli is one such change that can take place (Wickens, Hollands, 2000) whereas the term cognitive tunnelling defines an individual’s focus on well learned and practiced material when faced with distress ().

Beversdorf, Hughes…(1999) have demonstrated that the experience of chronic stress effects the prefrontal cortex and so can lead to a reduction in creativity and flexible problem solving.

4. Similarly, stress has been linked to certain emotions such as surprise, fear or joy for example (Lupien, 2007). However, Lupien () points out that although all stressful experiences elicit an emotional response and concludes that these responses are overlapped, not all emotions cause the individual to have feelings of distress, hence, there is a clear distinction between the experience of stress and emotions under certain conditions and situations. Stress due to stressful life events too have been linked to mood fluctuations in individuals (Bolger, DeLongis…1989).

5. Stress significantly affects memory and learning as studies by Roozendaal (2000) show. Whereby the type of stressor, gender and emotional excitement are all factors that play part in how memory and learning are affected, it has been shown that stress experienced after a learning experience enhance memory retrieval however, if excessive feelings of stress are experienced before a learning experience memory retrieval can be negatively affected.

This is due to increased levels of cortisol in the hippocampus area of the brain where memory and learning processing takes place().

This follows that increases in glucocorticoids in the hippocampus area can not only affect an individual’s declarative memory (Lupien, McEwen, 1997) but also his or her working memory (Young, Sahakian…1999) as well as emotional memory (Buchanan & Lovallo, 2001).

There are a number of researchers who have also looked at the positive effects of stress and found that increases in glucorticoids can actually improve the encoding of emotionally loaded information with individual’s being able to better recall the information thus learned and processed at a later stage (Buchanan & Lovallo, 2001). However, Lemaire, Koehl….(2000) emphasise that intense experiences of stress early in life can lead to lasting learning deficits.

6. The effects of stress on attention have also been well researched. On the one hand Oitzel & De Kloet (1992) found that stress causes the activation of Type 1 receptors which in turn increases an individual’s ability to be more vigilant and focus his or her attention on the source of the stressful stimuli rather than on what is happening around it.

On the other hand chronic stress evident through high levels of cortisol can have the effect of significantly interfering with tasks that require focus and attention (Lupien et al 1994).

7. Similarly, interpersonal relationships can also be affected through stress as studies show that people experiencing stressful events together can form a long lasting strong bond with each other (Lindy,1985) whereas on the more negative side traumatic stress could lead to problems with intimacy or closeness with significant others (Escobar et al 1983).

If you would like to read more about how to Treat Stress please continue to our article Stress Treatment Techniques


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