Cortisol And Stress Can Drive Acne And Provoke Breakouts
Yes, stress acne is very real!
Which is very frustrating since acne is also a big source of stress its a vicious cycle for so many women, and one we need to actively break!
No matter whether someones acne has root causes that are primarily topical , or internal , stress is only going to make things worse.
One of the primary reasons?
Excess cortisol also ramps up the activity of the sebaceous glands, causing the skin to produce more oil, which leads to blocked pores and breakouts.
And it certainly doesnt end there!
As weve discussed, cortisol also drives blood sugar levels up, impairs the production and balance of our sex hormones, slows skin healing and regeneration, suppresses the immune system, causes inflammation, and eats up key skin-protective antioxidants .
Not surprisingly, a study focusing on students with acne have found that acne severity significantly increased during a high-stress exam period .
Stress: The Hormonal Response
Stress is a normal part of life and can be good or bad for your body. For example, a bit of stress can motivate you to give a great presentation at work or ace a tough job interview. But major stress, even for a short time, or constant pressure over a long period, can be bad for your health.
A stressful situation whether youve just narrowly avoided a car accident, or youre worried about losing your job triggers the release of hormones that make our hearts pound, our breathing speed up, our muscles tense and our digestion slow down, says Dr. Laura Keys Campbell assistant director of Geisinger Adult Psychology Services. This fight or flight response is a survival mechanism that lets us react quickly to dangerous situations. But when stress is chronic and this system is activated too often, it can take a toll on our bodies.
In a truly dangerous situation, this response can be lifesaving. But if the reaction is triggered too often, the very system thats meant to protect us can be harmful.
Research shows that chronic stress and the hormones that surge through the body when its under stress contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain and susceptibility to infections and viruses, Dr. Campbell says. Over time, stress can also cause changes in the brain that may be linked to depression, anxiety and even addiction. And if stress is left unmanaged, it can heighten the effects of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pain conditions.
How Does Stress Effect The Body
Whenever we encounter stress, our body creates a natural stress response that is designed to help us handle the stressor that we are facing. This stress response starts in the brain. Your hypothalamus releases stress hormones that trigger your bodys fight or flight response. This causes your heart to race, your breath rate to increase, and prepares your muscles for action.
This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. However, when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious riskthis is why stress management and stress-reduction practices are so important.
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Stress Management: What Can You Do About It
- Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 71% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month. And stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.
- Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding or a new baby. And other times, its over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much or family drama.
How Chronic Stress Impacts Your Health
Were all probably familiar with the ways stress affects our moods.
We get anxious. Overwhelmed. Maybe even irritable.
But our bodies also try to tell us when were stressed out meaning the pressure were under is becoming too much or lasting too long.
So, whats stress? And how does our body let us know when were truly stressed out?
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Q: How Does Stress Affect The Brain
Chronic stress can make your brain behave in an Alzheimers-like manner. Stress adversely affects a key structure in the brain, the hippocampus, leading to impaired memory and problems with orientation and sense of direction.
These brain changes may have evolved to protect against the memory of traumatic and stressful events, like being attacked by a predator but short-term memory loss hinders todays brain-intensive lifestyle. We all know the frustration of forgetting where we put our keys, names of people we just met or other recent events.
When To Call A Doctor
While home testing is a convenient method for checking your cortisol, it may be best to see a doctor first if youre experiencing severe symptoms of possible low or high cortisol. These may include sudden, unexplained weight changes, darkened areas of your skin, or significant changes in mood.
You should also see a doctor if you decide to take an at-home cortisol test and you receive abnormal results. They may order follow-up tests and determine an appropriate treatment plan. Its also important to communicate any at-home test results with a doctor if youre currently being treated for Cushing syndrome or Addison disease.
Finally, if you receive normal at-home cortisol results but still dont feel right, make an appointment with your doctor to help determine what could be the underlying cause of your symptoms.
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Stress And Your Musculoskeletal System
Your musculoskeletal system includes your muscles, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments. They work together to help your body move but also to maintain its structure and stability.
When you feel stressed, your muscles tense and put pressure on your musculoskeletal system. Spending too much time in this state of tension can lead to painful conditions eg too much tension in your shoulders and back can cause headaches and migraines.
You Experience A Hormonal Cascade
The instant you begin to feel stressed, your body starts to react, Dr. Ross tells Bustle. The first response to stress begins in the hypothalamus in the brain, which sends signals to the pituitary gland and the adrenal medulla. They start a hormonal cascade, she says. The cascade released hormones throughout the body and includes the stress hormone cortisol. As it spreads, it causes increased heart and breathing rates, a heightened pulse, higher blood pressure, and more sweat, all of which are designed to help us cope with threats and danger.
A study published in 2019 in Seminars In Cell & Developmental Biology found that this cascade even affects the microglia, a type of nerve cell in the brain and spinal cord. After the danger passes, your body is meant to reduce these hormones to normal levels, but if youre under a lot of stress all the time, though, they stay at elevated levels constantly.
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The Impact Of Chronic Stress
Everyday stress can have a negative impact on multiple areas of your life. However, when the stressful situation passes, you may find that things return to normal even if you didnt do anything to address your stress. This isnt the healthiest way to get through stress, but it happens this way for some people.
However, if youre experiencing chronic stress, its not going to just go away. It may not be tied to a specific situation in your life. Instead, it might be the result of poor habits or not knowing how to deal with past trauma. It will not just go away if left untreated.
Theres No Doubt About The Fact That Anxiety And Stress Significantly Impact Physical Health And Wellbeing Including Skin Health
Your body sees all forms of stress as a threat to survival and so prioritizes them over all other functions.
This is why chronic stress has been linked to:
- Heart disease
- Leaky gut and digestive disorders
- Increased inflammation and inflammatory diseases
- Inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema
and SO much more.
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Should I Get A Stress Test
A stress test doesnt measure the stress in your life, but it does measure the stress on your heart, or rather how hard your heart is working and what it looks like when youre walking very fast on a steep incline on a treadmill. People usually get a stress test when they have multiple risk factors for heart disease, or if theyve been having certain symptoms like chest pain or palpitations, says Haythe.
What Are Some Ways To Prevent Stress
Many daily strategies can help you keep stress at bay:
- Try relaxation activities, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation. Programs are available online, in smartphone apps, and at many gyms and community centers.
- Take good care of your body each day. Eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep help your body handle stress much better.
- Stay positive and practice gratitude, acknowledging the good parts of your day or life.
- Accept that you cant control everything. Find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change.
- Learn to say no to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed.
- Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. A friend, family member or neighbor can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesnt become overwhelming.
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When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress
You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Its natural and normal to be stressed sometimes. But long-term stress can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.
How To Reduce Stress Levels
Some of the stressors in our lives are things that we can take some practical control over some of them are not. When we cant take away the thing thats causing us stress, we need to find ways of responding to that stress without becoming unwell. Some good ways to reduce stress can include:
Sleep wellGetting enough sleep and sticking to regular hours can make a huge difference to how well we cope with everyday stress. Remember that stimulants like late-night screen time, alcohol, big meals and nicotine can stop us getting to sleep. Caffeine can still affect us around 6 hours after drinking it, so cut out the coffee early in the afternoon.
Stay in touchEven when you dont feel like it, trying to maintain your social life is important. It might even help to talk to friends and family about whats going on in your life, but if youre not comfortable with that, just socialising with them can help you feel more positive.
Eat wellOne of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health is to eat a healthy diet. This means lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, and lean proteins.
MeditateBreathing exercises and mindfulness techniques have become popular stress-management strategies over the last few years, and theyre supported by good clinical evidence.
Get outsideEven a little bit of time outdoors can energise us, help us maintain a good sleep pattern, and improve our mental and physical health. Exercise is particularly good for stress relief.
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What Influences Our Capacity For Coping With Stress
Several factors influence our capacity for coping with stress:
- The presence of a social network
- Our skill and confidence in assessing a complex situation and then developing and evaluating solutions
- Personal variables such as physical health, experience, confidence, anxiety threshold and problem-solving abilities .
Stressful events are a universal part of the human experience. You may or may not be able to change your current situation, but you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.
How Much Stress Is Too Much
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, its important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is too much differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with lifes punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, lifes pressures dont seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, its easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your lifethat youre at the mercy of your environment and circumstancesstress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If youre generally hopeful and optimistic, youll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
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What Is Stress And How Does It Affect Our Brains And Bodies
Stress is our reaction to a threatening event or stimulus. Such events and stimuli are called stressors. People perceive and react to stressors differently. Something one person would rate as highly stressful might be rated as considerably less stressful by someone else. These responses are affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences.
Stress can be classified as positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress occurs when we are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources and can have a cumulative toll on our physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.
How Stress Affects Your Body And How To Fix It
, has spent decades performing studies at The Ohio State Universitys Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, unearthing a seemingly endless list of stresss imprints on the body.
Getting regular exercise, eating healthfully and getting plenty of sleep are important to preventing overwhelming stress.
If it seems unmanageable on your own, talk with your doctor about what youre feeling and how it affects you therapy or medication may be necessary to treat your stress and related emotional problems.
Research has shown that yoga and mindfulness meditation also are effective, natural methods to reduce stresss effects. Ohio State Integrative Medicine even offers free MP3 recordings that can help introduce you to mindfulness meditation and guide you in practice.Also important, Kiecolt-Glaser says, is avoiding isolation. This is especially true for women.One of the things thats most strongly linked to immune function is close personal relationships, she says.
Dont have a spouse, nearby family or a tight social circle? Make an effort to create new connections.Ive gotten into the habit of inviting people to lunch that I dont know well at all, but the worst they can say is no, she says. Take some risks, and reach out to people who look interesting.
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It Can Affect Your Immune System
Chronic stress can damage your bodys defenses against viruses and infections. A review of the effects of stress on the body published in EXCLI Journal in 2017 found that studies have linked stress to poor immune system function, in part because when youre stressed, your body changes the way it secretes hormones that help the immune system. This can lead to something called chronic immune activation, in which your immune system overreacts and starts to attack healthy cells instead of threatening ones.
It can also mean your body becomes more vulnerable to illness and recovers more slowly from diseases and infections. A 2019 study published in Microbial Pathogenesis found that stress can actually help bacterial growth, making infections worse.
The Effect Of Stress On The Body
Stress can wreak havoc on your body if its left unchecked. Not only does occasional stress show up in your body, but chronic stress can also have long-term negative consequences for your physical health. When you are feeling stressed, you may experience:
- Increased heart rate
- Change in appetite
And these are just a few of the symptoms that you may experience. If you suffer from chronic stress, the symptoms above can start to turn into more serious health consequences.
Chronic stress can lead to health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, heart attack, and strokes, among others. These are clear indicators that allowing chronic stress to continue in your life can be detrimental to your physical health and well-being.
How Stress Affects Mental Health
Stress also impacts your mental health and wellness. It can lead to you experiencing many different negatives and difficult emotions such as sadness, anger, frustration, and fear.
Some of the mental health symptoms that you may notice in your life from stress include:
- Lack of concentration and focus
These are serious symptoms that should not be taken lightly. If you experience chronic stress, you may begin to think that these symptoms are just a normal part of life. But, theyre not. All of these symptoms can grow into more serious problems if you dont work on addressing them.
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