In part 1, I explore the immune system and in part 2 the impact of short term or accute stress on the immune system. In this post I want to explore the impact of chronic or long term stress on the immune system.
1. Distant Stressors – traumatic experiences that occurred in the past yet are still causing long lasting change in both emotional and cognitive behaviours that result in modification of immune system function. For example, having been a prisoner of war.
2. Chronic Stressors – these pervade a person’s life and there is no awareness of when it might end. This for of stress suppresses both specific and natural immunity. Some examples of chronic stressors are
In summary the stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes).
Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system as a person may use unhealthy behavioural coping strategies to reduce their stress, such as drinking and smoking.
Managing stress therefore is intrinsically linked to wellbeing and keeping well.