Emotions As Source Of Disease

Emotions are part of our normal physiological responses. This makes then an integral part of our body and health, and also means that they are always in a close equilibrium with the body and its various organs and their functions. Thus, excessive emotions can affect body and health in many ways, and some of them, especially in case of negative emotions, can lead to significantly harmful consequences.
Emotions as Source of Disease
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Emotions have a close link with our health. Positive emotions can augment the body building process, while negative ones can lead to many problems of health. Not surprising that the world recognizes health as inclusive of mental well being, something that we are often not at terms with in our daily life. Greater awareness may help us achieve that goal.

WHO Definition of Health

The 1978 Alma Ata declaration of the World Health Organization, defined HEALTH as "the state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing," while DISEASE is understood as a state of disturbed health.

Thus, as per the WHO's definition

of health, emotional stress is enough to lead to a diseased state. The fact is that emotions and mental stress can lead to much more. There is a very long list of medical diseases that have emotional stress as a contributing factor. There are multitudes of ways by which emotions either cause a disease or make the body vulnerable to it.

Physiological Effects of Emotional Stress on Body

Our whole body, including the brain, heart, lungs, blood vessels and intestines are governed by a system of neurons called AUTONOMOUS NERVOUS SYSTEM or ANS.

ANS consists of two parts which have an almost opposite effect. The first of them is the PARASYMPATHETIC nervous system that is activated when the body is in a state of relaxation. It causes the heart rate as well as breathing to slow down, reduces the muscle tone, diverts the blood circulation to intestines and increases intestinal movements. Thus, it helps in digestion, body repair and rejuvenation and reduces the load on heart, lungs and muscles.

The other system is the SYMPATHETIC nervous system which becomes active when body is faced with stress, like when facing a danger, or competing with somebody. Typically the sympathetic system is involved in FIGHT, FRIGHT and FLIGHT but it also gets activated in emotionally stressful conditions. The sympathetic system increases the heart rate, accelerates breathing and diverts the blood away from the intestines and skin to the muscles allowing a person to fight, run or compete.

Emotional stress stimulates the sympathetic system even in absence of a situation that demands it, and by doing so, it can lead to increased load on heart and lungs and also adversely affect body rejuvenation and repairs. If such stress stays for a long enough period, it can seriously impair health, cause excessive load on heart as well as interfere with digestion. The net result can be an increased vulnerability to infections, heart diseases like angina or high blood pressure, stroke and disturbed bowel movements that may precipitate Irritable bowel disease.

Psychological Effects of Emotional Stress on Body & Mind

Emotions affect the psyche both in the short term as well as the long term. Emotional distress early in life can interfere with normal development of personality. More importantly, in case of personality disorders, emotional stress can precipitate psychological diseases like depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks and even schizophrenia.

In addition to the psychological impact, emotional stress can also affect different parts of the body directly or indirectly. One of the most common of these adverse effects is a rise

in blood pressure. Another is hyper secretion of acid in the stomach and duodenum that leads to acid-peptic diseases like acidity, gastritis and ulcers in those vulnerable to it.

Another adverse impact of emotional stress is reduced immunity that results from mechanisms not yet clearly understood, but probably involving body metabolism. It also interferes with appetite and digestion that may lead to a gradual weakening of the body. It can also interfere with normal sleeping pattern. Insomnia is a common manifestation of emotional disturbance, and places a lot of stress on the body that can interfere with health.

In some individuals, emotional stress can lead to binge eating and obesity, worsening their overall health and making them vulnerable to diseases like diabetes. Lastly, it can interfere with social interaction which is an important means for dissipating mental and emotional stress. By doing so, it can perpetuate a vicious cycle of mental stress and social isolation that can end in disastrous results.

Examples of Diseases that can Result or be Contributed by Emotions

Emotions can contribute to diseases of different parts of body. Heart diseases like high blood pressure, angina, heart attack and heart failure can all be worsened by emotional stress. High blood pressure contributed by emotional stress can in turn lead to many diseases like brain stroke consisting of cerebral bleed or infarction, as well as diseases of the kidney like glomerulonephritis and renal failure.

Emotions can directly or indirectly lead to a diseases of the digestive system like acid peptic diseases, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome as well as changes in appetite. Other examples include psychological diseases like anxiety disorders, depression and insomnia. Severe emotional distress can also lead to hormonal disturbances and its various manifestations.

Emotions are the Psychological Nutrition for Survival

It will not be an overstatement to say that emotional well being is as necessary for good health as is good nutrition. Thus, it becomes imperative that we develop ways and means to cope with psychological and emotional stress. This is a challenge that each one of us needs to face individually, by finding means that are most suitable to cater to our needs and preferences. For some, it may consist of pleasant company and affection; for others it could be meditation, physical exercise or diverting attention to other positive sphere like a hobby or a larger cause. Finally, for almost all of us, developing a philosophy of life, whether religious or otherwise can always be a great support in difficult times.

Being healthy is much more than being free from disease. Being happy is one of the better ways of achieving health.

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