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How Does Stress Affect Health?

Stress Effects Body Functions in Numerous Ways


How does stress affect health and well-being of individuals? The question has been asked by researchers looking at various stressors. The symptoms vary to some extent, depending on what kind of stressor the person has experienced. Here we look at the common symptoms, as well as those specifically related to workplace bullying.

The common symptoms have to do with the release of adrenalin and other bio-chemicals. Blood pressure rises and heart rate increases. Pupils dilate, digestion stops, appetite is suppressed and respiration changes. There is a sense of anxiety, as the body becomes ready to either fight or flee. The response is commonly referred to as the "flight or fight" response.

The symptoms are actually a person's natural reaction to a perceived threat. The bodily changes are necessary to direct energy to the large muscles, in case running is necessary. While a person may become more alert, it can become difficult to think clearly because of all the physical changes.

When the bodily changes occur normally and infrequently, as a response to nearly having a traffic accident for example, there is no long-term damage to the body or the bodily organs. The problems start when the reactions become chronic.

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How does stress affect health?

Chronic stress effects body parts in the same way as the acute type, but because the stressors are on-going, long-term health problems can result. A person's mental health is threatened, as well.

There are many different types of chronic stressors. Substance abuse, marital issues and financial problems are some of the common ones. Traumatic experiences can also be stressors that lead to long-term health problems.

For example, victims of violent crimes and military personnel returning from the war sometimes experience PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Although the stressor was of shorter duration, memories of the experience cause mental and physical problems.

Workplace bullying could be short-lived and traumatic or ongoing for as long as the victim can take the constant abuse. Just as the victim of a violent crime would avoid returning to the scene of the incident, the victims of bullying may avoid returning to work. In some instances, the avoidance leads to disability.

Researchers in South Australia have looked at how does stress affect health of victims of workplace bullying and other types of harassment. They concluded that there is no doubt that bullying is related to psychological health problems. Their advice is for employers to focus on the "psychosocial safety climate" in order to prevent this type of harassment.

Targets of bullying are often the best employees. So, it is wise for employers to protect them. Otherwise, they may be left with nothing but bullies on the payroll. If employers understand how long-term stress effects body parts, they are wise to focus on bullying prevention in order to reduce sick days and healthcare costs. The symptoms mentioned above can make a person physically ill. So in answering the question "How does stress affect health?", we can see that it also affects the health of the bottom line for businesses.

How common is bullying at work? A recent survey of bus drivers showed that 36% described themselves as victims. Co-workers were the usual bullies. Nearly 30% of nurses surveyed in Taiwan had experienced bullying. Bullying may be seen in any career. Nurses and bus drivers are just two examples.

In addition to studying how stress effects body functions, researchers have also looked at the subject of long-term mental distress caused by workplace bullying. In one study, researchers found that victims experienced mental distress for two years following the incident. There is no upper limit. Mental distress could last for many years. Another concern is that those who suffer from workplace bullying may become bullies. It seems to be a psychological effort to establish some control in their lives.

How does stress affect health? Not only can it affect the victim's health directly. It can have indirect effects on people who work with the victims. Having a program in place to address the issue is essential in today's business world.

Related Articles:

Effects of Stress

Physical and Emotional Symptoms of Stress

How to Deal With Stress


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