Anxieties trouble, cause harmful physical, psychological problems

Thomas Jamieson-Lucy

Right now Ashley Hong’s most pressing stressor is college. She worries about her ability to excel on the ACT and be admitted to the nation’s most prestigious colleges. Excessive amounts of stress have caused her to suffer everything from stomach pain to hair loss.
During a period of a few days or hours, stress has increased her alertness and focus. When she is stressed for a prolonged time Hong experiences the negative health effects of stress.
“My stomach hurts when I’m stressed. I went to the doctor because I thought I had stomach problems, and the doctor said it might have been too much stress that caused my stomach to hurt,” Hong said. “When I’m stressed, my hair falls out. It just happens. I don’t know why. My hair just falls out. Like when I’m brushing my hair or, like, washing my hair [my hair] just falls out like crazy.”
The effect stress has on the body depends on what type of stress a person experiences. According to University of Missouri neurological psychologist Dr. David Bevensdorf, there are two categories of stress: acute and chronic.
Acute stress comes from intense short term stressors and causes the adrenaline system to release norepinephrine.  Chronic stress comes from long–term stressors, which causes the hormone cortisol to become active. While acute stress can help people make quick decisions by altering thinking processes, chronic stress has health complications.
“Right now we’re still understanding the effects of stress and its severity. There’s no set answers to how much stress [is healthy] because [of] how can you measure it,” Beversdorf said. “Chronic stressors can be very [harmful]. There’s plenty of evidence that stomach trouble and even memory disorders can be related to chronic stress. You can even develop depression and a whole bunch of other things.”
The cause of Hong’s stress comes from worries she has about her future plans. For her these feelings can be overwhelming and cause her to become stressed.
“My parents pressure me about college,” Hong said. “I understand that because every parent wants their kids to have a bright future, but they just want me to do impossible things, like get a perfect on the ACT and go to Harvard. It makes me really stressed.”
Hong’s main defense when she becomes stressed is to sleep. She said sleeping allows her to escape her problems for a little while and helps her to feel better.  Sleep, however, is not always enough to relieve the stress.
“Sometimes I want to cry because it’s just too much pressure and stress, but when I cry people will ask me what the problem is and not everyone understands so I just have to hold it all in, which just adds to my problems,” Hong said. “Stress is a bad thing because it makes you feel terrible. You just lose your hope. You should be happy, but stress makes you sad; it gives you all sorts of problems like stomach troubles.”
While chronic stressors are less frequent among high school students, acute stressors such as final exams are more common. For senior Riaz Helfer acute stressors such as college applications, scholarship deadlines and sometimes even school assignments occur most often. The resulting stress hurts his ability to complete tasks.
Stress “really makes it hard for me to concentrate. I’m less focused on actually doing the assignment and more focused on getting it done,” Helfer said. “I become less efficient and then have to stay up later and then I’m more tired.”
Helfer’s experiences are not uncommon. He is among the 28 percent of teens, according, whose ability to consider all options is impaired due to stress. Stress, however, does help people complete tasks Beversdorf said.
“You can’t think very flexibly under great stress but you can respond quickly to things. It kind of makes sense when you think about because back when we were cavemen you had think very quickly to respond to a tiger and if thought of all the options it would probably get you killed,” Beversdorf said. “Now unfortunately though the great stressors we encounter this doesn’t work out quite so well for us.”
Helfer tries to do things he enjoys when he becomes stressed, such as watch television, read and hang out with friends. However, these techniques do not always work.
“If there’s a day where I’m I have a bunch of school work and I have to study for some exams that are coming up, then I usually can’t devote as much time to working on other things, not only college apps but just other things that I like doing,” Helfer said. “When I don’t have free time or I get behind on my college apps, then I start getting stressed. If I don’t have too much schoolwork to do, then I can get a head start on college apps while I still have a lot of time to do things that I enjoy.”
According to, the best way to cope with stressors is to alter the stressful situation, adapt to the stressor, exercise, or get involved in the community. By applying one of these strategies to stressful events it reduces both the body’s mental and physical reaction to stress.
The health effects of stress, ultimately, come down to the type of person and how he or she chooses to cope with it. While some people perform their best work under high levels of stress, another person may not fare so well.
“Different people respond differently. Some people seem to thrive off it and work of that energy to accomplish more,” Beversdorf said. “Stress can help you respond quickly and concisely to a situation. There is some evidence that certain types of stress leave you more resilient to other stressors and adjust to them. There’s also evidence that if you have really bad stressor early in life you are more susceptible so it’s very complex and intricate.”
By Thomas Jamieson-Lucy