Stress, Emotions and Body Response

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Someone recently asked if there is a connection between emotions and physical health? The individual was having some health problems and wanted to know if her depression could impact these physical issues.

A study published this month in the journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity states, yes, emotions can and do impact on physical health.


Dr. Judith Carroll conducted the study at the University of Pittsburgh. Reported that, “People who reported high levels of anger and anxiety after performing a laboratory-based stress task showed greater increases in a marker of inflammation called known as interleukin-6 as compared to those who remained relatively calm.” Interleukin-6 is a substance produced by the body in response to emotional reactions to stress, such as anxiety and anger.

Among other things and under the right conditions, interleukin-6 can promote inflammation. The greater the emotional reaction the more interleukin produced and the greater the inflammation that occurs. This leads to chronic health problems, such as hight blood pressure and heart disease.

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It is important to point out that some of the subjects in the study reacted with anger or anxiety to even mild strssors.

According to Dr. Carroll, “This could help explain why some people with high levels of stress experience chronic health problems.” Evidently, this can hold true for low levels of stress if the individual reacts “as though” there are high levels. 

What To Do?

Stress is inevitable as are emotional reactions. Those who react mildly produce lower amounts of interleukin-6. What can you do if you have a tendency to over-react to stress? What can you do if you are one of those persons who react with anxiety or anger?

It is a well established fact that yoga helps reduce stress. Of course, most of us cannot do yoga at the moment a problems occurs. However, retaining good physical health by regularly practicing such activities as yoga reduces the likelihood of overreaction.

In addition to yoga, physical exercise, meditation, and a healthy diet, all reduce the reaction to stress which then serves to protect health.

If none of these strategies work and you continue to react with anger or anxiety to mild stress then it might be time for psychotherapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is excellent in helping learn how to cope better with difficult situations. If necessary, some of the anti depressants even reduce levels of anger and thats important in reducing inflammation.

Do you know people or are you one of those who react to even minor stress as though it were a major trauma?

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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