February 20, 2010

Emotions Do Rule Our Health

Posted in Life tips at 9:52 pm by g3space

When Christopher and Aleena died in an accident, their four children were grief-stricken. As the weeks passed, the three oldest, in their early twenties, coped with the sorrows by sharing memories and making a pact to honor their parents by excelling at college and in their chosen careers.

But Mary, a high school student, refused to take part in these family meetings. She was inconsolable, withdrawing into dark, private world. Two months after the accident she was rushed into hospital with an acute asthma attack.

In the intensive care ward, under the gentle prodding of her sister and two brothers, Mary revealed how much she had depended on her parent’s approval and encouragement. When they died she had felt a drift in a life without meaning. The other told Mary their pact and motivated her to get on with living. Soon after, the asthma remitted. Four years later Mary graduated from college at the top of her class.

Mary’s case is just among hundreds that documents the link between a person’s emotional state and disease. Most of psychosomatic diseases have it roots in emotional strain and it intensifies illness. As soon as their anxiety lefts, their health improves. In all such cases, we have only to give patient some breathing space.  

How did mental distress help bring on a disabling bodily disease? And why did Mary’s grief contribute to an asthma attack?

 Reason- emotional upset triggers a chain of events involving the brain and endocrine system. This neuro-endocrine responses affects all vital bodily processes and severe over- stimulation, however may have physical effects leading to disease.

Two patterns of reactions emerge, depending on the type of emotion.

1-Passive emotions such as grief and despair, with feelings of loss and failure, register in hippocampus, the part of brain that activates the body’s pituitary-adrenal-cortical network. Hormones like cortisol, needed for regulating of metabolism, are secreted in excess amount, if it occurs too often or too long, immune mechanism may be thrown out of order. Defenses against infections and tumors diminish. And auto -immune diseases are more likely to develop.

2- More aggressive emotions like anger and impatience, or a threat to one family, income or position, affect a different section of brain- the amygdale. (I am not quite sure about its spelling), which sets of the adrenal-medullary system. Medulla releases chemicals known as catecholamine (adrenaline is one). This increase heart rate, elevate blood pressure. And rise of free fatty acids in blood. Faced with challenge, our survival instincts prompt this response. But prolonged or repeated activation may lead to migraines, hypertension even coronary heart disease and stroke.

Everyone has setbacks in life; everyone experiences occasional losses or threats. Why do some people sail through such events, while others fall apart?  “.Effective coping involves a capacity to maintain psychological equilibrium without experiencing undue or prolonged neuro- endocrine arousal” (I learned it in a counseling class but forgot the name of the Dr who told it). “And this is enormously dependent on a person’s self –esteem and social assets, the ties that bind one to others.

Some patients have an attitude of denying this rigidly. Outwardly uncomplaining and friendly, such people shy away from life’s blows because they fear that they won’t be able to cope with them. But learning how to live with one’s emotions is important. Denying that they exist cause problems.

A sense of mastery over one’s destiny in an essential asset for good physical and emotional health. When feeling of helplessness or insignificance set in, the neuroendocrine system shifts into overdrive and disease may become far more likely.

Clearly, the behavioral doctors have helped put to rest the belief of many that life is a lottery, that disease strikes indiscriminately. What can you do to prevent your emotions from making you ill? “Learn to take care of your mind as well as your body” I would like to say. “Recognizing that emotions trigger physiological reactions- and vice versa- is half the battle. “The other half is knowing that the foundations of good health lie in love, laughter and faith in oneself. I learnt it from my life itself my dear friends”.

  • Name of patient and her family have been changed.
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