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Psycology » Psychiatry and psychotherapy » Psychophysiologically-oriented model of psychosomatic disorders » The theory of stress and relaxation responses

As is known, the stress response, or a universal adaptation syndrome described physiologist H. Selye, literally means stress reaction. This refers to the first voltage adaptive physiological mechanisms. Accordingly, under this model, psychosomatic disorders are regarded as diseases of adaptation. However, for the purposes of psycho we consider it appropriate to combine the representation of models and G.Selje W. Cannon, extending to the description of the stress response and more power in the literal sense - muscle tension.

Less than described in the literature is a downside - the opposite direction to the totality of regular regulatory changes designed to neutralize, balance changes in the body caused by acute stress. This physiological reaction is the antidote to stress, has been described under the name of relaxation response cardiologist G. Benson in the late 60s. The basis for its selection as an independent adaptation process is the study of the functional state of the people during meditation. We give a brief comparison of the two opposite reactions (Table 3).

Table 3. Physiological indicators of stress response and relaxation reactions.

Physiological indicators

Stress reaction

Reaction relaxation

Emotional tension



Muscle tone





Slows down to normal

Arterial pressure


Reduced to normal



Slows, calms

Blood flow to internal organs

Decreases (blood

Rushes to the muscles)


Blood supply to remote sites limbs



The work of


Decreased production

Digestive juices


Blood sugar


Reduced to normal

Blood clotting



Dominant department

Nervous system



Given the described patterns become clear mechanisms of numerous psychosomatic disorders as unreacted cardiovascular, endocrine, muscular-tonic and other changes associated with physiological stress response software. Thus, increased blood pressure and heart rate during stress underlie the development of hypertension (the latter factor provokes the emergence of cardiac arrhythmias). Primordial same adaptive significance of these physiological changes, as noted earlier, is aimed at strengthening the skeletal muscle blood flow (component fight or flight response). The general trend towards centralization of blood flow - maximum blood, the maximum energy to the skeletal muscles and the heart - by saving on the blood supply to the internal organs adversely affects the status of the latter.

To this is added the local vascular reactions, also associated with the redistribution of blood flow to the peripheral vascular spasm in the distal extremities - not a coincidence that stress cold hands and feet chilly (or rather, cold hands and feet - gloves and socks syndrome). Initial, evolutionarily adaptive significance of these physiological reactions - reducing the risk of blood loss, trauma, since the physical confrontation of prehistoric man (or a beast of prey with their fellows) damage to these particular parts of the body was most likely. With the current way of life is not only lost expediency, but also may be a predisposing factor for the development of such dangerous disease as occlusive disease and Raynaud's syndrome.

Rapid breathing - hyperventilation syndrome - extremely unpleasant in itself, and can also adversely affect the health of people suffering from chronic diseases bronchopulmonary system (particularly in patients with bronchial asthma - to provoke asthma attacks).

These biochemical changes like increase in blood glucose levels (Adaptive whose purpose - to provide a source of muscle energy) and cholesterol (building material for stress steroid hormones produced by the adrenal cortex) - prerequisite for the development of diabetes, respectively, and atherosclerosis, with such serious complications of the latter, as myocardial infarction and stroke. In combination with the same increase in blood clotting (another adaptive mechanism to prevent blood loss in trauma), the risk of these complications and other vascular thrombosis is further increased.

So, initially adaptive response voltage under certain conditions can become anti-adaptive, especially if the time to replace it comes to the opposite direction of physiological relaxation response. How do combined stress reaction and relaxation responses in normal? In a healthy body, as it was originally provided by nature, they cycle through, replacing each other in a natural way. Once the stressful situation is over - and thus the associated physiological changes were properly utilized by the body - or depleted necessary for the implementation of the stress response and energy resources, automatically turns on relaxation response, designed to make these resources and to normalize the physiological condition. Otherwise, if the physiological preparation for fight or flight body remained unclaimed, this is not happening. And far from here and to psychosomatic illnesses, especially if such a state is repeated over and over again and it caused bodily reactions accumulate, becoming more pronounced, gradually moving that border line beyond which end allowable limits for a healthy body physiological changes.

Given that the main type of stress for modern man is a psycho-emotional stress (VA Bodrov, 1995), psychosomatic disorders can be rightfully called diseases unreacted emotions. In the modern interpretation, they are described as affective due, or affective-somatic disorders (Antropov YF, S. Shevchenko, 2000). Promote the formation of emotional stress disorders particular emotional response a person closely associated with the typological features of his personality. In this regard, particularly predisposing to psychosomatic disorders is the so-called D-type personality (ludicrous, E., 2000), whose main feature - the chronic suppression of negative emotions, combining the propensity to negative emotions and to the suppression of emotional expression.

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