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The Consequences Of Stress (I)


IT began as headache. Then the headache became persistent. Yet the office work neither reduced nor the demands of the extended family on Dozie. After indulging in self-medication for a week without remedy, fatigue and intermittent dizziness set in. Dozie who planned to see his family doctor during the weekend fainted and slumped while working on his table top computer in the office.  His saving grace was that two of his colleagues were present when Dozie fainted.

  Most times, people know when they are experiencing stress. The major problem is instead of seeking for an healthy and positive means of handling the stress, many erroneously think that the stress will vanish.  This form of wishful thinking exacerbates the consequences of stress.

  One of the obvious consequences of stress is physical illness.  Like we saw in the case of Dozie the consequence began with the initial symptom of headache and graduated to fatigue and fainting. The reason for the onset of physiological and physical breakdown in the life of people under the attack of chronic stress is due to the breakdown in the immune system.  Chronic stress stretches and overtaxes the immunology.  Stress leads to constant release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the blood system.  These are hormones that are needed for special living conditions in the organism to perform flight or fight actions.  However challenged by chronic stress the presence of these hormones in large quantities in the blood, leads to wear and tear.  To confirm the fact that stress is a major cause of most physiological illnesses, it is recorded that 75 to 90 per cent of all physical ailments are stress related.  Also, over 40 per cent of all adult ailments are stress related.

  Yet, stress is both a psychological distress as well as a significant cause of psychosomatic illness.  Perhaps nobody will ever escape from the scourge of stress in this life.  Over 75 per cent of all psychosomatic and perhaps psychopathologic afflictions are stress related or induced. Ulcer, (particularly duodenal ulcer), mood/affect, eating, drug, personality and other forms of disorders have all been implicated as stress related.

  Consequently stress plays an adverse effect on productivity.  All forms of productivity, – physical, mental, financial, academic, are all negatively affected by the onslaught of chronic stress.  For instance women who are under the attack of stress may experience delayed, prolonged or no menstruation.  In other words, stress can alter the time-table of a woman’s ovulation and menstrual period.  Stress can cause an erstwhile efficient worker in the office to become less efficient or totally unproductive. 

  Another major area of human life where stress leaves some negative imprints is learning.  Stress interferes with and hinders effective learning.  Many students who engage in the practice of Till Day Breaks (TDB), end up either not providing the correct answers to the questions or not participating in the examination. The idea of postponing all the studying and reading during the examination period ends up mounting a lot of stress on students and in the midst of such a stressful situation, performance is normally endangered. 

  Dr. Passy Amaraegbu, a clinical psychologist lives in Lagos.

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