Monday, November 7, 2016

Why is psychological stress stressful?

Physiological Stress

Sapolsky talks about in great detail in the book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" that "when we sit around and worry about stressful things, we turn on the same physiological responses (as a zebra would if it were being attacked by a lion)-but they ate potentially a disaster when provoked chronically. A large body of evidence suggests that stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships and promotions."p.6

"But when we get into a physiological uproar and activate the stress response for no reason at all, or overs something we cannot do anything about, we call it things like "anxiety", "neurosis", "paranoia," and "needless hostility." p,7

"..,the stress-response can be mobilized not only in response to physical or psychological insults, but also in expectation of them...a physiological system activated not only be all sorts of physical disasters but by just thinking about them as well."

So this is what according to the book gets us into so much trouble leading to strokes, ulcers, dwarfish, reproduction issues, immunity issues, insomnia, depression, addiction, etc.  Our body reacts in a physiological way to psychological situations and activates the stress response over and over again. And basically we aren't designed for this, Our stress response was designed to handle short term physical stressors.

There is some good news: Firstly the body is incredibly smart.

"The body not only can sense something stressful, but it also is amazingly accurate at measuring just how far and how fast that stressor is throwing the body out of allostatic balance." p.253

And there are some positive extenuating circumstances.

"An organism is subjected to a painful stimulus, and you are interested in how great a stress-reponse will be triggered. The bioengineers (have mapped) the relationship between the intensity and duration of the stimulus and the response. . . when the painful stimulus can reach out for its mommy and cry in her arms. Under these circumstances, this organism shows less of s stress-response." p.254

"the physiogical stress response can be modulated by psychological factors. Two identical stressros with the same extent of allostatic disruption can be perceived, can be appraised differently, and the whole show canges from there. Suddenly the stress-response could be bigger or smaller depending on spychologcal factors.  In other words, psychological variables could modulate the stress-response."

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