Most people understand the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but few do not understand the long term damage that it can cause on the body. Most people know about the nightmares, jumpiness, and the struggle being in public and cannot handle loud noises. Most do not understand that it can have a direct link to erectile dysfunction, many chronic illnesses and certain types of cancers. Chronic is easily defined as symptoms that persists for more than six months.
Research has been done for decades surrounding the effects on our physical organs and immune system due to chronic stress in the mind. What people struggle to understand is that our emotions affect every part of our being. Nearly 100 years ago people believed that if they could not find a medical reason for a pain or aliment then it was all in your head. Sigmund Freud talked about hysteria and the idea of somatic symptoms. He believed that your emotions could have a direct link to how you physically feel, even if there is no medical reason for the pain. He understood that our emotional health can manifest into physical ailments. Think about when you are frustrated or angry about something and you have a headache or you are scared and your stomach is upset. These are somatic symptoms based on emotional issues. Our brain tries to protect our body from physical harm, this includes releasing massive amounts of hormones to get us out of danger quickly. When these hormones continue to race through our system for extended periods of time then we begin to have chronic pain and illnesses.
One part of our nervous system generates our fight or flight response These hormones cause the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase, blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, our digestive process to change and sugar levels in the bloodstream to increase to deal with the emergency. In this hypervigilant state from chronic stress it can lead to a constant drain on our body and therefore damaging our systems and organs. Our system shuts down the immune system, not making T-cells and sends all of our bodies resources to our muscles to take care of an imminent danger or what our brain perceives as an immediate danger. When it comes to stress it can wreak havoc on our entire system. Our immune system for example can take a direct hit due to lack of sleep. When we have good restorative sleep then our bodies can heal and fight off what illnesses or injuries we night have. The respiratory system and rapid breathing can induce panic attacks, excessive smoking due to stress compounds these problems.
The cardiovascular system contains our heart and blood vessels. The inflammation of our circulatory system can cause heart attacks and increase cholesterol. Post-menopausal women are at greater risk.
Increased cortisol hormone levels due to stress can increase belly fat as well as a fatty liver. If our liver cannot absorb all of the blood sugar produced, partly from this hormone, then we are at risk for Type-2 diabetes.
Gastrointestinal issues can be affected by no food, large amounts of food, alcohol and tobacco. All of which people utilize to deal with stress. These can lead to acid reflex, and this in turn could increase stomach acids and ulcers. If food is not digested properly because of acid reflux, ulcers and other issues then it could lead to constipation or diarrhea.
In women, chronic stress can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, increased symptoms of PMS and emotional distress causing the physical symptoms of menopause to be much worse. It can also decrease your sex drive.
In men, ongoing stress over an extended period of time, can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation, and even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence.
Our musculoskeletal systems can even be damaged by chronic tension headache and migraines that are caused by the increase of tense muscles.
Our systems are very delicate and need to remain in balance. The easiest and quickest way to get back in balance is by reducing stress. Dealing with our traumatic issues is key to repairing our systems and putting everything else back in balance. Everything in our lives on average should be in balance. Work, family, recreation, food etc. It is not always possible to eat or sleep right. There are times that we have to work more hours or have a deadline. There are times in life that we might have to miss things with our families because of work that could contribute to stress. Putting all of these items in balance more days than not is something that needs to become a habit. The tools that we teach at Dragonfly Retreats will help keep you in balance and dramatically lessen your stress.