Made by Martin Tandean (22010113) and Helena Kishore Lalwani (22010069)
In today’s society, there exists a stigma associated with the word ‘stress’. People from all walks of life face stress, be it from university life, work, relationships, social obligations, or peer pressure. Finding ways to cope with stress can be seen as a remedy not only for our mental well-being but also for the health of our immune systems. Stress is triggered by the body’s response to both psychological and physiological threats, governed by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The immune system, on the other hand, is a complex network of biological and psychological factors that safeguards the body by eliminating infections caused by pathogens. Recent studies have
demonstrated that an individual’s psychological well-being and mental health can significantly impact the body’s immunity to diseases, as a person’s thoughts and emotional patterns are closely tied to their immune response. The brain and immune system communicate through intricate chemical messengers like neuroendocrine peptides, cytokines, and growth factors. This communication is made possible through neuronal circuits in the ANS and the neuroendocrine pathway via the endocrine gland.
Stressful situations like exams or challenging work environments can greatly affect the human immune system due to the close relationship between psychological stress and immune sensitivity. This sensitivity could lead to a reduction in the number of natural killer T cells, neutrophils, and lymphocytes, subsequently reducing the activity of lysis, cell proliferation, and chemotaxis. Psychological stress also triggers an inflammatory immune response within the body. While this stress may be temporarily beneficial in combating invading pathogens, if it persists and spreads throughout the body, it can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as arterial plaque buildup and increased susceptibility to infections.
In addition, stress, depression, and inflammatory immune response can enable and modify cytokine homeostasis, which has a depressive effect via the release of corticotropin or by indirectly elevating the body’s resistance to the activation of the glucocorticoid receptors. All of these processes result in a system-hyper activation as it dampens the normal feedback mechanism of the HPA axis, which regulates stress, immune function, metabolism, and emotions, leading to reduced stress responses, potential changes in immune function, metabolism, mood, and sleep patterns.
While there has not been extensive evidence supporting the link between mental health issues and inflammation, there is enough to confirm the relationship between psychological stress and inflammation. However, this field is still actively being researched, and various challenges need to be addressed to gain a better understanding of the underlying processes of health, illness, and the role of emotions and stress in our well-being. Previous studies on mental health issues did not take into account individual differences, equipment variations, or the patients’ personal histories. Despite these challenges, it is crucial to acknowledge that the connection between stress and the immune system has paved the way for the development of therapeutic interventions that effectively assist patients in managing mental health issues associated with immune system problems.