How stress can affect our physical health

Most counsellors and other therapists have long believed that there can be a strong link between emotional issues and bodily responses. A new study from Ohio University has now shown that dwelling on stressful events can actually increase levels of inflammation in the body.

Researchers, led by Professor Peggy Zoccola, have produced evidence that when study participants were asked to focus on a past incident which might have caused them stress, their levels of C-reactive protein were increased. C-reactive protein is regarded as a marker of tissue inflammation. This is probably the first time that this effect in the body has been measured directly.

The researchers believe that they have found a correlation between people’s tendency to ruminate on a stressful incident and a response in physiological tissues.

The research subjects were 34 young women. Each woman was asked to give a speech about her candidacy for a job to two interviewers, who listened with stone-faced expressions.

Of these 34, 50% were then asked to think about their performance in the public speaking task, while the other 17 were asked to think about neutral images and activities, such as sailing ships or shopping for groceries.

Blood samples that showed that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly higher in the subjects who were asked to dwell on the speech, as opposed to the control group.

For the 17 participants subjected to the interview, the levels of the inflammatory marker continued to rise for at least one hour after the speech. During the same time period, the marker returned to starting levels in the control group, i.e. those who had been asked to focus on neutral thoughts.

Professor Zoccola explained that the C-reactive protein is primarily produced by the liver as part of the immune system’s initial inflammatory response. It rises in response to traumas, injuries or infections in the body. C-reactive protein is widely used as a clinical marker to determine if a patient has an infection, but also if he or she may be at risk for disease later in life.

Qualified counsellors in Hastings and elsewhere generally have extensive experience in working with clients suffering from stress. Through counselling, clients can have the chance to deal with that stress before it begins to create bodily as well as emotional problems.

 

added at 12:03am on 18th March 2013

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