Causes & Effects of Stress

Causes of Stress

When we are confronted with different stressful situations - anything from a sudden stop in traffic to being interviewed for a job - our bodies respond in much the same way, with the "fight or flight response." We automatically prepare either to fight the stressor or to run from it: Our heart rate increases, muscles tense, breathing becomes more shallow, we start to sweat, our minds race, etc. But this ancient, unconscious pattern, which once provided human beings with the responses necessary for self-protection in a challenging physical environment, is today the root of many stress-related illnesses and reduced quality of life. Throughout our lives, as we confront the various stressors that occur every day, we respond by constantly tensing and relaxing. Eventually, after each instance of tensing, we cease to return to our original level of physiological relaxation. Thus, through the years we establish a stair-step pattern: We adapt to increasing levels of physiological activity. In so doing, we lose familiarity with deeper levels of relaxation and get used to greater levels of tension as the norm. This habituation to unnecessary physiological activity has a wearing effect and can cause such conditions as high blood pressure, headaches, digestive problems, and other illnesses.






Stress and Homeostasis


Homeostasis is the body's normal state of balance or equilibrium. Adjustments in metabolic processes, like increasing or decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and pH, are constantly being made to achieve and maintain this state. Most adjustments are subtle and unnoticeable, but that depends on levels of stress.


Stress is caused by influences that require a response or effort, at any level, in order to maintain homeostasis.


There are varying levels of stress responses, from the cellular level to tissues, to organs, to the level of the entire person. There will also be varying levels of stress perception. For instance, a lack of symptoms is not necessarily a lack of stress. 


Perception of stress can depend on the nature of the stressor(s), adaptation to prolonged stress exposure, and on an individual's self-awareness.


Examples of Stressors

Stress may be caused by a huge number of influences, including but not limited to the following stressors. Often, people don't think they have any stress, though they will readily admit that they are affected by many of the factors on this list:


Addictions to street drugs, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, caffeine, stimulation, emotional fixations, or behaviors,  are all causes of stress. 


Allergens including aromatic oils, automobile emissions, caffeine, coffee, dander, latex, nicotine, pollen, pollution, smoke, specific foods, tobacco smoke, toxic chemical residues, and individual-specific allergens cause stress by reducing bodily functions and mental energy, causing lethargy and combating the immune system, thereby causing stress. 


Bacteria and Viruses, bacterial and viral infections reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, slow down bodily functions, reduce the supply of nutrients and reduce bodily and mental energy, thereby causing stress.


Chemicals such as cleaning agents, chlorine and fluoride, fungicides, growth hormones, herbicides, insecticides, paints, and most man-made chemicals attack the immune system, impair breathing and oxygen intake, reduce the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and raise the acidity of bodily cells, thereby causing stress.


Conflict in any form (workplace, family, interpersonal, territorial, military, political, or otherwise) often creates life-altering levels of stress.


Dehydration caused by lack of water intake, excessive sweating, diarrhea, excessive urination, drinking too much coffee or carbonated soft drinks and eating too much junk food all impair the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and oxygen on a cellular level, thereby causing stress.


Electromagnetic Fields from appliances, entertainment devices, cell phone towers, and power lines (particularly high-voltage lines) have all been connected to sleep disruption, impaired cognition, and immune system suppression, which all cause stress.


Emotional Issues whether unresolved, being resolved, or resolved have all been shown to be major causes of stress.


Employment causes stress, and doing work one does not love to do has been shown to be major causes of stress.


Exercise and Exertion of any kind have been shown to cause stress, though there are obvious benefits as well, given it is done safely.


Fast Foods including partially hydrogenated fats, trans fats, artificial coloring agents, artificial taste enhancers, artificial appetite appeasers, artificial aromatic agents, artificial sweetening agents, and artificial preservatives are all toxic to the human organism, thereby causing stress.


Financial Problems have been shown to be a major cause of stress.


Fungi and Fungal infections whether ingested, inhaled, externally or internally attacking the body are harmful to all life and the by-products of fungal infections are toxic to living organisms, thereby causing stress and myriad psychological and medical conditions.


Genetically Altered or Modified Foods have been linked to asthma, attention problems, balance problems, behavioral problems, concentration problems, digestive problems, libido issues, memory problems, metabolic problems, perceptual problems, sexual dysfunctions, and other disorders, thereby causing stress.


Headaches and Migraines are usually caused by stress though in some cases there is a biological agent of the cause; but, even then, stress may be the cause underlying the biological dysfunction; and either way, headaches, and migraines are a major cause of stress.


Heavy Metals including especially arsenic, mercury, and lead are implicated in adrenal, bone, bone marrow, brain, circulatory system, ear, eye, gallbladder, heart, intestinal, kidney, liver, lung, lymphatic system, pancreas, pituitary, skin, spleen, throat, thyroid, thymus and other problems, thereby causing stress.


Irradiation of foods has been shown to reduce the life force and greatly diminish the nutritional value of food; but by law all foodstuffs entering the USA and most of the civilized world must be irradiated for the public good, thereby causing stress.


Lack of Physical Activity is one of the top risk factors for disease, and the overall benefits of regular exercise for stress management and overall quality of life are well-established.


Lack of Sleep and sleep problems whether caused by emotional, psychological or medical issues is a major cause of stress.


Low Self-Concept whether caused by social conditioning, abuse, infections, poor nutrition, toxic chemicals, hormonal imbalances or other means is known to cause stress.


Medical Conditions, Diseases or Disorders whether diagnosed or not, whether being treated or not, whether improving or not, are all known to cause stress.


Microwave Radiation from cell phones, microwave ovens, portable radios and telephones, television sets and other sources are known stressors with varying effects upon people for reasons currently under investigation.


Nutritional Deficiencies whether caused by disease, disorders, poor nutrition or poor absorption of nutrients are known causes of stress.


Overworking is known to be a major cause of stress.


Pain of any kind, including physical injury, mental trauma, emotional trauma or psychological issues, is a major cause of stress.


Phobias, such as fear of spiders or fear of open spaces are irrational fears that can instantaneously trigger extreme stress responses.


Parasites including thousands of medically undetectable parasites known to infest the human bodyswap the body’s nutrition and energy, thereby causing stress.


Prescription Drugs and other synthetic and toxic chemicals are implicated in every physical and mental disease, disorder or condition known to science, thereby causing stress.


Psychological Conditions, Diseases or Disorders whether diagnosed or not, whether being treated or not, whether improving or not, are all known to cause stress.


Relationship Problems of any kind have been shown to be a major cause of stress.


Traumatic Experiences cause extreme acute stress that may have lasting effects known as "Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome." This is not exclusive to soldiers. It can be experienced by medical professionals and rescuers, victims of abuse or assault, family members after the death of a loved one, and survivors or witnesses of shocking events.


Vaccinations are cocktails of chemicals and foreign biological materials that are designed to provoke an exaggerated immune and neurological response when injected. Foreign materials introduced into the bloodstream are known to cause stress. 

Effect of Stress

Our stress response is a non-specific set of mental and physiological adjustments that our bodies make automatically to maintain stability or homeostasis in response to stressors. Stressors are factors that threaten this equilibrium. 

Our bodies are constantly adjusting to our surroundings, and the degree of actual or perceived danger will affect the degree of our response. 

When a physical or mental event threatens this equilibrium, we react to it. This process is referred to as the "Fight or Flight Response." We prepare for physical action in order to confront or flee a threat, like a predator. Of course, the same response can be triggered to varying degrees by skipping a meal, narrowly avoiding an accident, or having an argument.


Tension is whom you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are - Chinese Proverb


Our stress response is a non-specific set of mental and physiological adjustments that our bodies make automatically to maintain stability or homeostasis in response to stressors. Stressors are factors that threaten this equilibrium. 

Our bodies are constantly adjusting to our surroundings, and the degree of actual or perceived danger will affect the degree of our response. 

When a physical or mental event threatens this equilibrium, we react to it. This process is referred to as the "Fight or Flight Response." We prepare for physical action
in order to confront or flee a threat, like a predator. Of course, the same response can be triggered to varying degrees by skipping a meal, narrowly avoiding an accident, or having an argument.

Our stress response is considered positive when it is a natural reaction to challenge or danger. However, when we feel out of control or under intense pressure for extended periods, we may experience physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that are considered negative. It is this unmanaged stress that is directly related to nearly all disease.

The stress response is activated by our autonomic nervous system, which handles all unconscious activities in stress and relaxation states.


 Stress is linked to the following leading causes of death; either as a cause, a risk factor or a complicating factor: 

                Cancer            Heart Disease            Strokes                   Lung Diseases            


                Diabetes.         Suicide                       Kidney Disease     Influenza andPneumonia                \


                 Alzheimer's Diseases (Cause of Death Source: StatsCan)


What Happens?

Typically, apart from mentally-generated stress, our sensory system is the first to sense a 
threat or "stressful situation." The response is reflexive. The hypothalamus, which is a central neural processing area of the lower brain, perceives incoming information from the sensory system and immediately responds with a series of neurological and hormonal signals to 
the brain and pituitary gland. These signals change our emotional and cognitive state and initiate a
cascade of hormonal changes that are responsible for the functional effects of stress.

Functional Effects Stress:

~~  Reduced circulation incerebral
cortex, which reduces thinking to "lower brain" survival instincts. This results in more impulsive action, like "fight or flight."

~~  Diversion of the blood from less vital to core vital organs and to muscles. This focuses resources and energy on short-term survival functions. 

~~  Reduction in surface and peripheral circulation. This would reduce bleeding in the case of trauma and it is responsible for the phenomenon of "cold and clammy" hands and feet. 

~~  Digestion, intestinal motility 
and the immune system are inhibited.  Muscles can see up to 400% more blood flow.

~~  Increase in the heart rate and blood pressure to supply more blood quickly to "fight or flee."

~~  Increase in the respiratory rate and dilation of bronchial tubes to get more oxygen from the air. 
      Breakdown of glycogen stores in liver and muscle to provide more glucose (energy) to the muscles.

~~  Formation of more glucose from proteins and fat stores. Mobilization of immediate energy.


This is a list of possible symptoms caused by stress. Physical symptoms can sometimes mask symptoms of other diseases,    so it is important to find out if they are stress-related, or not, by speaking with a health professional. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis                                    Periodontal disease                                  Flatulence
              More frequent flu and colds                       Shoulder, Neck or Back Pain                   Menstrual Irregularities
              Baldness or increased hair loss                  Skin Problems                                           Infertility
               Increased Chlorestrol                                  Tremor or shaking                                    Increased Sweating
               Slow healing wounds, infections                Jaw Pain                                                     Sleep disturbances
              Constipation or Diarrhea                              Stomach Cramps, irritable bowel          Muscle tension, cramps
              Asthma Attacks or Shortness of Breath     Loss of Appetite                                        Chronic Cough
              Migraine                                                           Indigestion                                                 Nausea
              Chest Pain or Palpitations                             High Blood Pressure                                 Fatigue 
or excessive wind
              Premature ejaculation or Impotence          Poor Circulation                                         Heartburn     

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

                  Nervousness                              Depression                       Frustration

                  Memory Problems                     Excess Anger                   Overreactions
                  Feeling out of Control               Fear Phobias                    Anxiety
                  Lack of Concentration               Substance Abuse            Trouble Thinking Clearly


Behavioral Symptoms of Stress


The antisocial behavior displayed in stressful situations can cause the rapid deterioration of relationships with family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers. A person under stress may manifest signs such as: 
                             Increased arguments                                                    Substance Abuse
                       Conflict with family, co-workers                                    Indecisiveness
                       Inability to concentrate                                                  Excessive and sustained irritability with other people   
                       Obesity and Over-eating                                               Increased and suppressed anger
                        Loss of your sense of humor                                         Domestic, workplace violence
                        Road Rage                                                                      Over-reactions
                        Paronia                                                                            Feeling out of control        
                        Decreased sex drive/libido                                            Frequent job changes
                        Excess emotion & crying at  small irritations                 Lack of interest in anything other than work
                        Decreased work or athletic performance                     Withdrawal from responsibilities
s                                        Permanently tired even after sleep (very common)
                         Lack of motivation                                                        Increased smoking
                         Increased or excessive drinking of alcohol              Loss of appetite or anorexia
                         Carelessness                                                                  Increased coffee consumption

Severe stress reactions that persist for long periods of time and recur without warning after a traumatic event or even after an intense experience such as an accident, hospitalization, or loss, may become a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) requiring professional assistance to overcome.


Stress as a Cause of Disease and Death


Acute stress reactions have been shown to increase accidents and completed suicides, which are among the top causes of death in Canada. However, it isn't acute and extreme stress that results in the highest amount of sickness and death. Eight of the top 10 causes of death have been connected to stressful conditions that endure over long periods of time. 

Chronic stress is a major risk factor fordisease

This makes complete sense. If we consider the functional effects of stress, such
inhibiting digestion, immunity, and thinking ability, increasing blood sugar and blood pressure, and stimulating increases in lung function, then what would we expect to happen when we are under these influences over a long time? Heart disease, strokes, digestive problems, mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc), infections and immune-related diseases, diabetes, etc.

Stressors, and the body's natural responses to
them, are the risk factors and mechanisms by which most diseases occur. 

In a nutshell, we don't digest, assimilate, regenerate and generally heal properly when we are stuck in a chronic  "stress-on" state.