Chronic stress has been linked to a ton of problems for the body both psychologically and physiologically. We’ll take a trip in this lesson to examine what these problems are – a trip you may never forget.
Stress can be a good thing, despite what commercials constantly claim. Without a moderate level of stress you would have a difficult time getting motivated to accomplish daily tasks. But of course, if you have to endure long-term stress, i.e.
chronic stress, then you’ll be ripping your hair out, popping blood vessels in your eyes, and driving everyone bonkers! But those are just the superficial aspects of lots of stress over the long run. The hidden underworld of stress is as layered and monstrous as some of Dante’s circles of Hell, which we’ll be voyaging through in this lesson.
The Many Dangers of Chronic Stress
Literally and figuratively, as we wait in Limbo (the first circle of Hell), for a tour guide willing to take us through the underworld, I’d like to quickly preview some of the issues chronic stress causes or exacerbates. It’s a mixed bag of problems, just like Limbo is a mixed bag of people. These dangers include:
- Kidney disease
- Muscle spasms, cramps, and pain (like back pain)
- Sexual dysfunction
And just as I said, alcoholism, a ghoulish-looking guide, pranced alongside us to offer a tour for a price yet to be determined.
As we take our tour, so far, free tour of Dante’s Inferno, our guide gleefully points out Dante’s third circle of Hell that brings misery upon gluttons, the people who overindulge in things like food and drink, such as alcohol. Chronic stress casts a shadow of wrath upon your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes organs and tissues such as the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Long-term anxiety, fear, panic, irritability, and all the other things associated with stress can cause:
- Weight gain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Diverticulitis, a condition where the colon become painfully inflamed
But having to run to the bathroom all of the time and lying in the fetal position from GI pain is the least of your worries, dear traveler to the underworld. In fact, there are no restrooms on this tour, so please sit still. As we make our way through this fiery inferno we get on a boat: a boat floating on a river of smelly boiling blood in the seventh circle of Hell. The blood represents our cardiovascular system that is so important in pumping blood all over the body.
It too will endure the bountiful fury chronic stress places upon it, including increased risk of:
- Heart attack
- Hypertension, which is increased blood pressure
Issues Related to the Nervous System
But we must quickly get off our boat and hop on the human-headed monster, Geryon, to get to the eighth circle of Hell! From there we make our way to the ninth circle of Hell where we see a man chewing on another person’s head and Lucifer himself doing the same exact thing! These grisly scenes remind me to tell you that the nervous system, including the brain in your head, is physiologically and psychologically ravaged by the razor sharp claws of stress.
- Sleep disorders,
- Headaches or migraines,
- Depression, and
- Memory problems
are just a few of the ghastly things to look forward to if distress is not controlled.
The price we have to pay for our trip through the underworld of stress? An infinite amount of torture if it’s not brought under control. Watching the video on stress management techniques just might save you from all of the trouble we went through while examining chronic stress, or long-term stress. The effects of stress can include problems such as those that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes organs and tissues such as the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, as well as issues like ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea. All of that, on top of an increased risk of:
- Heart attack
- Hypertension, increased blood pressure
And don’t forget things like kidney disease, anxiety, sleep disorder, and sexual dysfunction, among the tons of other things we discussed.
By the end of the lesson, you should be able to:
- Define chronic stress
- Recall how chronic stress affects the GI tract
- Discuss how chronic stress can affect the cardiovascular system
- Explain how chronic stress can cause damage to the nervous system