How does stress affect immune system function? Chronic stress suppresses your immunity and makes you vulnerable to illness or disease.
Under normal conditions, your body maintains a balanced state of health. But, when exposed to constant and prolonged stress, your system breaks down. Not only are you more likely to become ill, if you are under stress, you don’t heal as fast either.
Fight or Flight Response
Something triggers your brain to think that you are in danger. This is called the fight or flight response. Your body gets you ready to run or fight.
Years ago, if you were a cave man, it might have been a ferocious animal chasing you. Today, it might be your wife nagging you to get something done, or the boss at work reminding you that you need to meet a deadline.
It really doesn’t matter if you are in physical danger or if the stressor is mental or emotional. Your body reacts in the same way. It gives you an adrenaline rush and raises your cortisol levels. And, if you truly are in danger, these two chemicals help you in these ways:
- You get a burst of energy.
- Non-essential body functions are shut down. Digestion is slowed, and your immune system is weakened.
- Heart rate is increased. Adrenaline helps pump blood to your major muscles, so that you can run or fight. Immune system function is slowed, as it is unnecessary during fight or flight.
- Lower sensitivity to pain. Because your body senses an emergency, you are less sensitive, temporarily, to pain.
This is all great–if you have a REAL physical emergency, and you need to react quickly and effectively, but what if you don’t?
What happens when stress is chronic and prolonged? How does stress affect immune system function then?
Basically you end up with a weakened or compromised immune system, and you can end up with one of many immune system disorders. The process is quite complicated, but this video explains it well.
Chronic Stress Affects Your Health
When stress is excessive and long-term, it actually breaks down your body’s defense mechanism and leaves you open to disease and illness. You may find that you get colds more often, or you come down with the flu. If your stress levels remain high, you may end up with a more serious illness, like heart disease or cancer.
The more stressed you are and the longer it lasts, the more damage it can do. People with chronic stress can develop:
- High blood pressure
- Heart Disease
- Hives or stress rash
- Constipation or diarrhea
Prevent Stress Illness
However, the good news is that disease and illness CAN be prevented. And the solution is relatively simple. You see, there is another factor. Some people can handle huge amounts of stress without consequences, while others get sick, with just a little stress.
What’s the difference? It seems that your ability to handle stress and relax is even more important than the level of your stress. How stress affects your immune system is definitely dependent on your ability to relax and handle stress and anxiety.
Hypnosis is a powerful way to strengthen your immune system. In fact, doctors are now using hypnosis in their treatment for serious illnesses like cancer. This hypnosis program was specifically developed to strengthen your immune system.
You can do this by learning to meditate, finding fun activities that help you to relax, and by behavior modification or changing your thought patterns to alter your emotions and your behaviors.