Chapter

Understanding How Stress Affects the Physical Body

BRUCE S. RABIN

in The Link Between Religion and Health

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195143607
Published online April 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199893256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143607.003.0004
Understanding How Stress Affects the Physical Body

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This chapter explains how psychological stress affects the brain, neuroendocrine system and ultimately, the cardiovascular and immune systems. A theoretical model is presented that details the effects of stress on the locus ceruleus and sympathetic nervous system, which connect the brain to primary and secondary lymph organs. The chapter discusses how stress affects the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland, and the hormones produced by these glands which ultimately affect cellular immunity, antibody production and cytokine activity. It also examines how religious beliefs and activity might influence this system by improving coping and increasing support or, alternatively, may simply be a marker for some other factor (genetic or acquired) that is associated with lower stress and greater sociability.

Keywords: stress; neuroendocrine system; immune system; cardiovascular system; sympathetic nervous system; brain; cellular immunity; religious beliefs; hypothalamus; hormones

Chapter.  9458 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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