Internal factors such as stress have been implicated in causing a deficient immune system because of the nature of the body's response in dealing with this problem. The capabilities of the immune system are diminished after frequent activation of the autonomic nervous system in the case of chronic stresses. The immune system is downgraded to be able tocontinuously functioning.
In a large study involving parents of both children with cancer and parents with children who were relatively healthy, the results showed that chronic psychological stress might reduce the immune system's reactions to hormonal secretions that were normally used to fight the inflammatory response (Miller, Cohen, & Ritchey, 2002).
Perceived mood also seems to play a rolein immune system effectiveness. Having a positive attitude seems to correlate with an increased ability of the immune system in fighting diseases. In cases where patients have exhibited fear before a surgery, they have had a longer healing time afterwards. Correlations were observed in the number of lymphocyte cells and the person's level of optimism.
Cardiovascular diseases are another areawhere stress could have a negative effect. The natural response of the fight or flight activation mechanism could have a decidedly negative impact on the cardiovascular system. Since the activation of the fight or flight system involves an increase in the heart rate, a frequent activation could increase the possibility of a heart attack or other negative aspect of the disease. Specifically, a studywas done in an industrial work environment in which a much higher frequency of cardiovascular mortality was found to correlate with an environment in which there was very little reward incentive (Kivimaki et al., 2002).
Even in relatively less dangerous health problems, mood can have an effect. A study with the common cold and emotions showed that participants with happy emotions exhibited agreater ability to fight off the cold when given a squirt of the rhinovirus (Jones, 2003).
A study done on students in an academic environment during exam time produced some convincing results. In the study, the level of T-cells and responses to mitogens was lower. Secondly, there was a higher self-reported occurrence of health problems, such as, upper respiratory-tract infections (O'Leary, 1994).In the case of external factors, the social environment could play a huge role in immune functioning. If a person has an effective social support web, it has been shown to effectively increase the immune's systems abilities. The cardiovascular system could also have a positive response to this type of social support. Having positive social support could aid in blood pressure regulation, thusreducing the probability of a heart or related disease.
The definition of stress can be confusing. It can be a stimulus or demand, a response, or it may involve a process that involves both. Seyle is the champion of the commonly believed process of the physiological response; the alarm stage, resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage or also known as the general adaptationstrategy. Lazarus promoted an alternative to this theory that also involves the emotional or psychological based response of the individual when faced with a stress. In his model, cognitive factors come into play like the cultural background of the individual or past experiences. First an individual determines the degree of threat that is perceived by the stress. Next coping strategies are assessedby the individual to effectively deal with the confronted situation.
Cox determined that both physiological and psychological components were equally important. He also recognized that each individual incorporated their own coping strategies.
The strategy an individual uses to cope with stress has in some studies shown a strong relationship with the ability of the immunes system. In the...