Terminology, Understanding Stress

Psychophysiology of Stress

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A labyrinth of mediators and a complex interaction between multiple players, defines the concept of stress, which has now become a common feature of our everyday lives. Though surprising, it is true that stress also has numerous psychophysiological components of it. Brain or our nervous system are the central organs that determine the true origin and magnitude of stress. For any external stimuli to be perceived as pressure, stress or an unusual situation, the brain has to receive the external stimuli and recognize it as a condition of stress of unusual condition, in order to evoke an appropriate response. The sensory system works in coordination with the motor and neuron functions to provide necessary stimuli which are further processed. These stressors could be of varied origins such as physical, biological, psychological, sociological or philosophical and to be perceived by the brain, they undergo a cognitive processing.

The intriguing nature of the process is that brain of each unique individual function differently and in some cases the signal might not be a true stressor, but is rather understood by the neuronal cells to be as a signal of distress. Similarly it is also possible that a particular event or a condition is associated to be a stress condition by any individual while it is just a normal scenario for another.

This may be demonstrated using a simple experiment. For instance, a group of ten students are blindfolded and are made to sit in a circle. A heavy object is now dropped in the middle, which creates a big noise and vibration. As an effect of this, it is most likely to observe that the reaction by all the students in the room would be similar, yet quite different. While the input of the signal provided in this case is the same in all the cases, it is evident that the manner, in which it is perceived by the brain and processed in the form of a response, will vary from person to person. While some of them could be startled with a jerk, some might even scream as a reflex reaction to it. It might not be surprising to spot a fraction of the group which might not be even moved by this change or loud impact. This is the extent to which a response can vary on exposure to a stress stimuli which is discernable from the usual surroundings. Also, the time of recovery for each individual could be different. While some students would subsequently show greater anticipation with the fear of occurrence of an unknown phenomenon, the rest might get back to the original state in no time.

Similar observations in unrelated scenarios has led to the understanding that stress perception and stress response are a result of a complex interplay between a person’s unique psychology along with his physiological make up.

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