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Chapter 2. All About Stress > Negative Effects of Stress

Negative Effects of Stress

So what are the negative effects of stress? What can happen when stress overloads your coping resources, when your skills are inadequate to deal with the demands placed on you by circumstances? Stress negatively affects your physical, psychological, and occupational functioning in a variety of ways.

Physical Consequences

The relationship between stress and your health is neither simple nor straightforward. Stress will not automatically cause you to become physically ill. The impact of stress on your health is mediated by a variety of personality variables (which we will address in later chapters), as well as your genetic makeup and environment. But physically, it is clear that when you are under prolonged stress your immune system can be weakened, creating vulnerability to illness and bodily system breakdown. Recent research has revealed that chronic high levels of stress hormones, known as glucocorticoids, cause white blood cells to migrate to the bone marrow and hide out, making them less available for combating disease. This appears to be one specific mechanism by which chronic stress weakens immune functioning, leading to an increased susceptibility to diseases, including cancer. Furthermore, stress can create a wide assortment of psychosomatic problems in which the weakest link in your system of organs, muscles, and glands is affected. For some individuals the heart is affected, for others the stomach or the pancreas; thus, some develop heart disease, others ulcers or diabetes. The following list illustrates some of these problems:


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