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Stress, Depression and Psychoneuroimmunology Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 17th, 2021

Introduction

Health is a blessing and it is not enough to cope up with the physical health aspects only. It is also necessary to maintain the mental health as well. This paper deals with the mental disorders like stress, depression and psychoneuroimmunology. It is very much essential to keep the body and mind of a person relax and healthy. Different activities may be used for keeping the life healthy and refreshing.

The different activities may include prayers, meditations, happiness, laughter and any other creative outlet. Stress is the problem that is increasing day by day and measures should be taken to overcome this problem. This mental illness is getting common and it may lead in to several other serious mental disorders. The consequences of stress are not only over the mental health of a person but it also disturbs the physical state of a being. If the stress is not controlled at the initial stages then it may turn in to the depression which is a serious mental illness. Stress is a phenomena that is commonly being observed where as depression represents a huge collection of mental disorders of diverse etiology.

The depression creates a feeling of disturbance in every aspect of a person’s life. This mental illness is now becoming the most common reason of impairment and disability worldwide. Another concept that has been presented in this paper is the psychoneuroimmunology which is the study of the interactions among behaviour, neural and endocrine function, and immune processes (Ader & Cohen, 1993: 53). Many studies have been carried out by the field of psychoneuroimmunology for observing the link between the mental health and various mental processes.

What is Stress?

It is easy to understand stress as a pressure over human body that can be emotional as well as physical. This pressure is exerted over the person by the external world. There are two kinds of stress; positive stress and negative stress. In positive stress the pressure over the person is to give good performance and sometimes the stress finally makes the person to do so. The positive stress is necessary in the human life as it adds spice and excitement to the life.

On the other hand, the negative stress is an unwanted feeling and it can lead many hazardous consequences like depression, anxiety and other health problems. Stress is a feeling that can help the people to fight up with the challenges and on the other hand it can also make the situations worst.

The causes and symptoms of stress may vary from person to person and the symptoms can be mental as well as physical. Different physical symptoms include breathing difficulties, stomach disorders, excess of urination, pain and trembling because of muscles tightness, sweating and pounding heart. The many different mental symptoms may include troubles in sleeping, extreme tiredness, lack of concentration, irritation and tension. However, each organism is affected by stress in different ways (Sapolsky, 1994).

Life today is very fast and is full of demands and needs. These needs, demands and deadlines have created a situation of frustration, aggravation and disturbance. Stress can basically be termed as a routine and normal physical response to some unwanted events. These events can make a person excited, scared, feared, threatened and can also disturb the balance of human mind. There are some hormones in our body like adrenaline and cortisol.

These hormones are released when the body experiences some sort of unwanted situation and these hormones makes the body to react for such events (McEwen, 2004: 1). In such a condition the senses of the human mind and body are sharpened, heart beats faster, muscles become tighter and the level of blood pressure is raised. This physical state can cause the human being to perform much better as the stamina is also increased and sometimes the body reacts in a positive manner while being at the state of stress. But some people get habitual of living in the state of stress which is not good, because after a certain limit, the stress becomes hazardous for the health of human body.

At this stage, the stress is no more helpful or supportive instead it causes damages to body, health, mood, behaviour, creativity, stamina, relationships and social life. There can be many different reasons as a result of which the stress is observed. The causes of stress depend on how a person perceives the different situations and may differ among people. There are times when a situation is stressful for one person while the other person thinks the opposite.

Stressor is the name that has been given to the situations that may cause stress. Every single thing and task that may cause burden over you can be stressful. Some of the common causes of stress may include unwanted changes in life, pressure of work, complexities in relationships, financial issues, pessimism, negative perception and unrealistic expectations. Stress is a condition that may lead to dangerous health problems like heart diseases, neuro diseases and many such other disorders.

There are many stress management strategies that have been provided for dealing with stress. It is recommended that the stress should be managed and tried to get eliminated or reduced so that a person may lead a healthy life.

“It is better to prevent stress than to suffer from it!” (Montes-Berges & Augusto, 2007: 169).

What is Depression?

Stress may also lead to other mental illnesses and one such mental disorder is depression (Pariante, 2003: 811). Indeed it would not be wrong to say that both of the terms are usually used together in order to define each other. If we define depression than according to the definition depression is a mental health disorder which usually produces a drastic effect on the mental health in term of rest and relaxes lack ness in human life.

It means that the depression initially strikes on the food and rest portion of Human and the human measure a negative effect in his sleep and food. The depressed person has got a feeling that he is not capable of performing the things in the right manner. The depressive disorder is not a typical mood or self defined behaviour that is why it cannot be removed instantaneously or by just willing to lack it. In fact depressive disorder cannot be associated with personal weakness or it cannot depict the lack ness in the personality but it is just a disease that has to be cared. In depressive disorder all the personality attributes both physical and mental are involved.

Like in depressive disorder the person can’t have a total control on his mood, thoughts and on body. Because it is a disease so it has to be cured as a disease. A proper medication is required in order to cope up with depressive disorder. In the depressive disorder the symptoms can be eliminated within a month or it can take a year by using anti-depressant or some time psychotherapy. But it depends on the severity of the symptoms to cope. In depressive disorder which usually known as depression can be of different types. However, according to their main characteristics the depression is classified in three different types namely, Major Depression, Dystymia and Bipolar Disorder (Chapman, 2008).

Major Depression

The first one is Major Depression. In that type of depression there are different combinations of symptoms of severe intensity. In this type of depression the patient feels that his all routine of life has been damaged because his total chart of eating, studying, sleeping and other activities feels not to work accordingly. In that depressive disorder the sign of depression depicts from the patient total body language and this type of depression demand high cure and effective psychotherapy in order to remove the impact of that depression. That’s why the intensity of that depression increases or decreases with the time. There is no exact total duration for that depressive disorder some time it can be end in a month and sometimes it can take a year or two to correct.

Dysthymia

The intensity of that kind of depression is not as powerful as Major Depression that lasts a long time but involves a relatively less symptoms. This can be define as in that kind of depression although the patient feel that he is quite normal and doing all the works satisfactorily but he don’t find that pleasure and relax in doing his all works. Although the intensity of the dysthymia is not that tense but if it continues for a long time than this is also a tendency that it can be turned in Major Depression. The cure for that dysthymia is not as typical as major depression but it also requires some good psychological techniques to be used in order to cope up with the dysthymia.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a kind of depression and it is thought that it occurs in very rare cases of depressive disorders. If the person is having bipolar disorder then the patient usually feels to have variations in the mood (Craddock, O’Donovan & Owen, 2006). The patient always wants to achieve some specific targets anxiously. When the patient feels that the mood is on a height then this conditions is termed as Mania and the lower level of mood represents the condition of phobia.

The phenomenon of mood disorder involves dramatic changes and these changes takes place immediately. If the person feels himself depressed he can have one or more symptoms of depressive disorder at the same time. When a person became maniac than, the individual can react in over, tends to be over-talkative and sometimes feels himself highly confident which is actually over confidence, and have a great deal of energy. Thinking, judgment and social behaviour are deeply affected by mania which sometimes is the main cause for some sociological disorders and even personal

After having such examples it can be said that although in bipolar disorder in the second stage need more attention but in some cases the first bipolar disorder which is the mania also possess some worst effects in the society and can also be caused of some disaster.

Common Symptoms of Depression and Mania

There are various causes of mania and depression. Depression is caused when a person is sad, anxious or is having an empty mood. He could be feeling deprived and hopeless and that he is of no good. He does not take any pleasure in any kind of activities, not even in his hobbies and things he is interested in. the person feels low and does not have energy. He has a weak decision making capability. His routine becomes early morning and late night. He experiences weight loss and loss in mass of the body. The patient could be schizophrenic and wanting to commit suicide.

There are certain causes of mania as well. The persons suffering from mania become irritable and talk more. They have more thoughts because of which they do not have enough sleep at night. There is excessive elaboration of personality and the person’s thoughts and moods change rapidly. He feels himself in a high energy shell. He tends to judge rapidly and that results in usually wrong judgments. His behaviour becomes unrealistic and unsocial.

These are the some common examples of depressive disorder or known as depression. It can be a depression or it can be a bipolar disorder but both of them are need to be cure by using appropriate medication in term of physical cure. Anti Depressant and tranquilizers can also be used for that matter as well as for mental medication some good psychotherapist techniques can also be used in order to get complete relax from this disease (Lacasse & Leo, 2005).

Immune Response

Immune response can be named as innate immunity or it can be a Humoral immunity. In microbiological terms it can be called as Cellular Immunity or it can be simply call as inflammatory response. The immune response can be define as the process in which your body reacts against some external microbes and bacteria or it can be simplified as the system in which a human body defends itself from external bacteria or viruses.

It can be named as the antivirus system of the body. This is a natural phenomenon in a human body because human body is composed of several other bacteria’s and viruses as well as the human body itself a complete system. So in order to defend its own isolated system whenever a bacteria, microbe or a virus hits and tries to enter the system the human body immune response checks the status of that microbe or bacteria and if it found harmful than human body tries to remove or repel that intruder form the system. The immune system protection system is based upon the fact that the body recognize the bacteria or microbe by using its antigen system.

Antigens are the little molecules normally form from proteins on every cell, or any microbe. They work as the spies for the immune system to generate response. Although most of the antigens are comprises of the proteins but they can be comprises of toxic or some inorganic chemicals. Most of the harmful microbe, bacteria and viruses contains the antigens of toxic resins and agents and thus it is easier to find these sorts of antigens for human immune system and it destroys it well by recognizing these sort of toxic antigens but as a matter of fact even our own body cell can contains this sort of antigens.

These sorts of antigens are usually human body friendly which are already present in human body and can be named as HLA Antigens. The immune system recognize that antigens as human friendly and several times it compare the traces of external antigens with this HLA antigens to recognize the nature of the target antigens and then define it as harmful or human friendly.

Another important sub system of Human Immune response in Innate, or nonspecific, this is a sort of automatic defence system which acts whenever an intruder tries to enter into the system. This defence system is automatic and performs its duties from childhood till death of a human. This Innate Immunity is the defence system that always works silently but violently to reduce the risk of getting infected with harmful antigens.

In other words it can also be said that in a whole system of Immune response, innate immunity is the first line of defence to prevent harmful antigens from entering into the human body. One way through which automatic defence comes into play is through cough and sneezing which is the result of the function of that automatic system. Also, there are enzymes present in tears in skin. Mucas is also part of the automatic defence since it traps microbes and bacteria from getting into the human body. Skin action is also present related to any cut or harm and the stomach acid also helps in the digesting of food.

Acquired Immunity

The immunity that is usually established because of the exposure of human body to different antigens is known as the acquired immunity. In simplified form this acquired immunity is the result of a specific immunity against some specific antigens to prevent those specific antigens from gets infiltrated.

Passive Immunity

Passive immunity is based on using antibodies which usually generate in your body from young to old. Infants usually got those antibodies as they birth because they take their antibodies from their mother in advance. At the age of 6 to 12 month these antibodies usually vanishes because the immune response system of that child becomes active and create its own antibodies according to the situation and necessity.

In Passive immunization, infiltration of antiserum takes place which usually contains antibody elements that are formed by another person or animal. The infiltration of antiserum provides the start-up and immediate protection against all other antigens that can be harmful for the human body. It is a fact that passive immunization is unable to provide a long lasting protection and for this reason the life cycle of antibodies is too short. The most frequently used word for Hepatitis publicity and tetanus antitoxin is Gamma globulin which is one of the best examples of inert vaccination treatments.

Blood Components

The best example of the blood’s protection system component is the white blood cells. Many other parts that are essential for the prevention of immunization structure are also present in the blood which includes antibodies, proteins and interferon. In some of them are used as the offensive force of the immune system and attacks directly to the foreign bodies or intruders but most of them are worked together in order to get a complete team performance and helps out immune system cells.

Most of the white blood cells are comprises of Lymphocytes and they contain B sub cells and T Sub cells.

The working of B cells is to create and produce more antibodies. These antibodies first attacks on the foreign cell and they weakens them and the immune system cells destroy those foreign microbe or virus. T cells are the warriors of the immune system they attack directly of the antigens and destroy them before they get infiltrated in the human body system. A chemical is also present in the T cells which are known as interleukins and this is the basic compounding agent in Human immune system. Once B cells and T cells are formed, a few of those cells will multiply and provide memory for the immune system. This process is called Immune indexing which means that after having knowledge of the predator the immune system store this information and when ever this antigen attacks again than this memory helps immune system to recognize that antigens more faster than before (Dunbar & Tallman, 2009).

Immune System Disorder and Allergies

Immune disorder is a type of occurrence which occurs when the immune system of the body functions slowly or starts to give too much response or sometimes gives fake warnings. Most of the allergies involved in the immune reply to or from a substance are considered as harmless by the body (Dugdale & Tallman, 2008).

What Is Psychoneuroimmunology?

The term Psychoneuroimmunology was first developed in the late 1975 by Dr. Robert Ader, director of the division of behavioural and psychosocial medicine at the New York’s University of Rochester. Dr. Ader had the idea in his mind that there is a link between our thoughts and to get treated from our thoughts. This idea was the result of the study that was conducted by Dr. Ader and his colleagues which showed that it is possible to treat our selves using our thoughts in an appropriate way.

Dr Ader experiment that caused this development which is consisted of feeding a specific thing to the mice and given him an upset stomach drug at the same time at the end, the mice learned to avoid that specific thing in order to get him fit. A suppressed immune system is the side effect of the drug. Dr. Ader hypothesized that the experimental conditioning had been a success that without a drug that specific thing is enough to kill amice all alone.

It is also assumed that when there is a mental stress, that there is a corresponding link between our thoughts and the thought that yield us. This can also be said that if a person is having a mental stress than he also feels lethargic and also feels some related illness in term of that depression. Same is the case that if a patient knows that he has a vicious and bloody disease like cancer of other than he must have some negative mental stress due to his illness. A communication system can be made if we link the immune system and mental processes. So after having this connection it is much easier for a patient to care by himself because this will create a positive linkup in between his mind and his immune system.

Current Research

This phenomenon to use mental control to increase the intensity of immune system is also known as molecular communication. These molecular communication main nodes are mind and body. Although this topic is quite interesting but like other non scientific approaches the current modern science has ignored it.

” Research over the past twenty years has seen the development of Psychoneuroimmunology, This research is based primarily onto the significance of neuro sciences which deals with the central nervous systems, the neuroendocrine system and the immune system and their other subsystems. Although the central nervous system has a comparatively large numbers of connections throughout the body which can further are divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. It helps the brain to send and receive information throughout the body via chemicals or neurons which generally known as information substances (IS)” (Quinlan, 2001).

It was thought before the current research that the communication via these IS are only one sided means that only the brain has the capability to recognize the sensors but now this idea has been changed. Now the current research reveals the fact that the central nervous system is the main key player in all the defence system of the body and responsible to draw the lines of defence for human body.

By following this technology in the field now there are several ways to adopt psychoneuroimmunology which are as under:

Mind-Body Therapies

There are many techniques which are currently used in this field on strengthening the immunization system of the body. It means there are a lot of professionals in the field adopting different techniques.

“These professionals include: medical doctors nurses, naturopaths, osteopaths, Chinese medicine and Chiropractors for the body model and psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, hypnotherapies and counsellors for the mind model” (Quinlan, 2001).

Depression, Stress and Their Response System

The Stress Response System (SRS) is the link between the Central Nervous System and the endocrine system. It allows the person to react in a short time or in a long time stress situations. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) is the base of that system. There are three major parts of stress response system and these are hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands. If this system is working properly in the human body, than, the person will react big in big situations and react small in small conditions.

When the SRS works well, the chemical changes in this systems are transitory and quickly neutralized, for example a person is on a highway going on the speed of 100 plus kilometres per hours and suddenly ac accident happen but fortunately he gets no loss than if the person have a healthy SRS than he feel himself normal after a short time and if his system is not working properly than the impact can be maximized.

“Sometimes the SRS does not work well. The chemical messages that are first released from the hypothalamus then passed by the pituitary gland. These messages are slow to leave the brain and reach the adrenals. This procedure takes long time to have an effect on the body, which slows down the reactions and hence decreases the ability to respond quickly to threat. The stress reaction is tenacious, and the after effects can linger longer than for someone with a healthy SRS. So it can be concluded that if a person has a healthy SRS than it is much easier for him to get a rapid relief from any stress and there is a very low chance that he gets depressed for a long time” (Werner, 2003).

Summary

In conclusion, we can say that in today’s world we have a lot of situations to deal with. These situations may also lead to the feeling of being tense and hence a pressure is created over the mind of the person. This is the simplest form of the stress. Stress is the condition in which a person thinks that he is worthless and has nothing to do with the others. Several other disorders can be observed in the stress. Depression is in one of it.

Depression is the state of stress in which person feels no pleasure and relax even doing his own interest and activities. In order to find out the relation between the stress and human immune system, a new field is developed which is known as psychoneuroimmunology. This field comprises of the ways and means that how can a person can decrease his level of stress and can get full relief from his depression and how he can improve his immunization system to fight against several physical disease and mental diseases like stress and depression.

References

Ader, R., & Cohen, N. (1993) Psychoneuroimmunology: Conditioning and stress. Annual Review of Psychology, 44(1): 53-85.

Chapman, D. P. (2008) Depression as a major component of public health for older adults. Preventing Chronic Disease, 5(1): A22.

Craddock, N., O’Donovan, M. C., & Owen, M. (2006) Genes for Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder? Implications for Psychiatric Nosology. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 32(1): 9-16.

Dunbar, C. E., & Tallman, M. S. (2009) ‘Ghostbusting’ at Blood. Blood, 113(3): 502 – 503.

Irwin, M. (2002) Psychoneuroimmunology of Depression: Clinical Implications. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 16(1): 1-16.

Kaye, J., Morton, J., Bowcutt, M., & Maupin, D. (2000) Stress, depression, and psychoneuroimmunology. The Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 32(2): 93-100.

Lacasse, J. R., & Leo, J. (2005) Serotonin and depression: A disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature. PLoS Medicine, 2(12): e392.

Leonard, B. E., & Myint, A. (2009) The psychoneuroimmunology of depression. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 24(3): 165-175.

McEwen, B. S. (2004) Protection and damage from acute and chronic stress: Allostasis and allostatic overload and relevance to the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1032: 1-7.

Montes-Berges, B., & Augusto, J. M. (2007) Exploring the relationship between perceived emotional intelligence, coping, social support and mental health in nursing students. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 14(2): 163-171.

Pariante, C. M. (2003) Depression, stress and the adrenal axis. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 15(8): 811-812.

Quinlan, J. (2001) Psychoneuroimmunology — Can We Control Our Immune Systems? Subconsciously Speaking.

Robins, J. L. W., McCain, N. L., Gray, D. P., Elswick, R. K., Walter, J. M., & McDade, E. (2006) Research on psychoneuroimmunology: Tai chi as a stress management approach for individuals with HIV disease. Applied Nursing Research, 19(1): 2-9.

Sapolsky, R. M. (1994) Individual differences and the stress response. Seminars in the Neurosciences, 6(4): 261-269.

Werner, R. (2003) Depression and the stress response system: Part I of III. Massage Today, 3(8).

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