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Stress (biology)

Physiological or biological stress is an organism's response to a stressor such as an environmental condition. Stress is the body's method of reacting to a condition such as a challenge or physical and psychological barrier. Stimuli that alter an organism's environment are responded to by multiple systems in the body. The autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis are two major systems that respond to stress. The sympathoadrenal medullary (SAM) axis may activate the fight-or-flight response through the sympathetic nervous system, which dedicates energy to more relevant bodily systems to acute adaptation to stress, while the parasympathetic nervous system returns the body to homeostasis. The second major physiological stress, the HPA axis regulates the release of cortisol, which influences many bodily functions such as metabolic, psychological and immunological functions. The SAM and HPA axes are regulated by several brain regions, including the limbic system, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus, and stria terminalis. Through these mechanisms, stress can alter memory functions, reward, immune function, metabolism and susceptibility to diseases. Definitions of stress differ; however, one system suggests there are five types of stress labeled "acute time-limited stressors", "brief naturalistic stressors", "stressful event sequences", "chronic stressors", and "distant stressors". An acute time-limited stressor involves a short-term challenge, while a brief natural stressor involves an event that is normal but nevertheless challenging. A stressful event sequence is a stressor that occurs, and then continues to yield stress into the immediate future. A chronic stressor involves exposure to a long-term stressor, and a distant stressor is a stressor that is not immediate.

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Everyone understands the pressure from stress

Contributed by Liz Simmons

The physical reactions to stress can cause major breakouts, which, in turn, can be even more stressful!

Contributed by Rodolfo Salgado

When the body undergoes stress, cortisol, a glucocorticoid, is released from the adrenal cortex in response. As a result, the immune system is weakened which is why people often get sick when they're stressed because the body has redirected it's functional importance to the cause of stress. The body is more concerned with restoring the body to homeostasis or responding in a fight-or-flight method instead of immune function.

Contributed by Lauren Bandyk

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