The negative effects of psychological stress on the body has gained a great deal of press the past few years. While psychological stress — described as the way an individual feels when they are under physical, emotional and/or mental pressure — is normal in that it is something that everyone feels from time to time, repeated exposure or elevated levels of stress over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. People can become in distress when they feel that they cannot control or manage changes brought on by life events such as cancer or even everyday activities. Medical professionals are becoming increasingly aware of how distress can reduce the quality of life cancer patients experience or lead to poor clinical outcomes.
The Human Body and Stress
The classic response of the human body when it’s exposed to stress is the release of various stress hormones such as norepinephrine and epinephrine. This results in an increase in the person’s heart rate and blood pressures, as well as a spike in their blood sugar levels. These changes help fuel a person’s escape from a real or perceived threat by increasing their speed and strength.
Is There a Link Between Stress and Cancer?
Stress that is long-term and intense has been linked to a variety of health issues including fertility problems, a weakened immune system, headaches, urinary problems, anxiety, viral infections, depression, sleep issues and more. While there is little evidence that stress can actually cause cancer, there are some ways that the two can be linked. People who are under stress can develop behaviors, such as drinking excessively, smoking cigarettes or overeating, that could lead to an increased risk of cancer.
The Effects of Stress on Those with Cancer
Many people who have cancer find the emotional, social and physical effects they experience as the result of their disease to be stressful. This could lead to the adoption of risky behaviors like becoming more sedentary, drinking excessively or smoking, which could lead to a poorer quality of life. More appropriate and effective coping skills, such as cancer counseling, relaxation and other techniques to manage stress, can result in reduced levels of anxiety, depression and cancer symptoms.
One, nearly-universal feeling associated with having cancer is the loss of control that a person so often feels. Cancer counseling provides a customized plan that is designed to help an individual regain their sense of control as they work to boost their immune system and increase their foundation of support.