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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Stress, Emotions and Body Response

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 18th 2011

Stress, Emotions and Body ResponseSomeone recently asked if there is a connection between emotions and physical health? The individual was having some health problems and wanted to know if her depression could impact these physical issues.

A study published this month in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity states, yes, emotions can and do impact on physical health.

Dr. Judith Carroll conducted the study at the University of Pittsburgh. Reported that, "People who reported high levels of anger and anxiety after performing a laboratory-based stress task showed greater increases in a marker of inflammation called known as interleukin-6 as compared to those who remained relatively calm." Interleukin-6 is a substance produced by the body in response to emotional reactions to stress, such as anxiety and anger.

Among other things and under the right conditions, interleukin-6 can promote inflammation. The greater the emotional reaction the more interleukin produced and the greater the inflammation that occurs. This leads to chronic health problems, such as hight blood pressure and heart disease.

It is important to point out that some of the subjects in the study reacted with anger or anxiety to even mild strssors.

According to Dr. Carroll, "This could help explain why some people with high levels of stress experience chronic health problems." Evidently, this can hold true for low levels of stress if the individual reacts "as though" there are high levels. 

What To Do?

Stress is inevitable as are emotional reactions. Those who react mildly produce lower amounts of interleukin-6. What can you do if you have a tendency to over-react to stress? What can you do if you are one of those persons who react with anxiety or anger?

It is a well established fact that yoga helps reduce stress. Of course, most of us cannot do yoga at the moment a problems occurs. However, retaining good physical health by regularly practicing such activities as yoga reduces the likelihood of overreaction.

In addition to yoga, physical exercise, meditation, and a healthy diet, all reduce the reaction to stress which then serves to protect health.

If none of these strategies work and you continue to react with anger or anxiety to mild stress then it might be time for psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is excellent in helping learn how to cope better with difficult situations. If necessary, some of the anti depressants even reduce levels of anger and thats important in reducing inflammation.

Do you know people or are you one of those who react to even minor stress as though it were a major trauma?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Fed Up - John - Feb 24th 2011

I feel the same way as she does, you can read all the books out there, and after all said and done nothing changes. I just feel all these answears to stress and anxiety are a big money gimic.

What a joke - Allan N. Schwartz, Phd - Feb 22nd 2011

Brenda,

Judging from your reaction you are one of those people who experience depression and anger to degrees that are unhealthy. This is not a joke and you need to do something about it. Medication is available and so is psychotherapy. Not being able to get up in the morning is an acute symptom of Major Depression. Despite your pessimism, help is available. I hope you seek it.

Additionally, you might be interested in joining our Online Support Community. You can find it by pressing the link on the front page of Mental Help.Net.

Dr. Schwartz

Jesus - - Feb 22nd 2011

Try Jesus

what a joke - Brenda - Feb 21st 2011

I'm so sick of the same BS, do yoga, do this do that, wow wouldn't it be nice if I could just wake up and decide I was going to excercise and eat healthy and start smiling...I'm lucky I can get out of bed and look at the world, there's no help out there screw you all

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