Stress has both mental and physical impacts

Stress is a phenomenon that affects both our physical and our psychological well-being and can leave deep scars in its wake.

Stress activates a certain region of the brain, the hypothalamus, which secretes a hormone that is then transported through the circulatory system to the adrenal cortex where the “real” stress hormone, cortisol, is released. Cortisol in turn affects the nerve cells and the cells of the body´s immune system. This means the body and the psyche are closely connected and mutually affect each other in the presence of stress.

If stress becomes too great, long-term modifications may occur in the nervous system, the blood vessels and the entire immune system. The result: stress-related physical and psychological dysfunction. Because of these many ways in which stress causes such reciprocal effects, it is deemed a psychosomatic phenomenon that is amenable to both psychotherapeutic interventions and certain pharmaceuticals that influence the various connections between the human body and the human psyche, in order to reverse the damaging repercussions of stress.

Some substances, such as alcohol and some sedatives like benzodiazepines (for example Valium), can affect these cycles, and indeed many people tend to use them during stressful periods in their lives, in the attempt to relieve their suffering. Although the short-term use of such substances may provide some relief, when taken over longer periods of time they may lead to dependence and even addiction.