The Science Behind Emotions: How Marital Stress Impacts Your Health

marriageIt’s no secret that marital problems can negatively impact your state of mind. It goes beyond emotional health, though. Several studies show that the stress that results from marital conflicts can cause serious physical damage to your body.

It can be difficult to determine what constitutes an unhappy marriage, but researchers have been able to determine general marital problems by asking couples about the quality of their communication and sex lives.

Increased Risk of Heart Troubles

A recent study shows that women in particular experience more stress in marriage after the age of 40. Women who are unhappy in their marriages after this age a higher risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. They also are more likely to engage in unhealthy activities such as the use of alcohol and illicit drugs, as well as overeating.

Stress puts our physical bodies at risk by forcing the brain to release chemicals into the bloodstream. These chemicals cause our blood pressure and heart rate to increase dramatically. The heart has to work harder to accommodate these sudden changes. If someone suffers from chronic stress, after a while their cardiovascular system can be severely strained.

Compromised Immune System Function

The immune system also loses its ability to function properly when a person experiences chronic stress. High levels of cortisol, a hormone that is released when the mind enters a state of distress, enter the bloodstream. Consistently high levels of cortisol in the bloodstream can cause the body to go into a state of inflammation. The immune system is compromised as a result and cannot fight off infections as easily.

Individuals who are unhappy in their marriages experience a much higher risk of developing infectious diseases. It has also been shown that people who are constantly fighting with their spouses have a harder time recovering from wounds and injuries, as the immune system is not functioning properly.

Increased Chance of Mental Health Problems

Those who are unhappy in their marriage and feel trapped may develop serious psychological conditions like chronic depression and anxiety.

Depression is characterized by feelings of apathy, hopelessness, sleeplessness and periods of intense sadness. Depression can become so severe that the sufferer may turn to destructive habits such as drug use and alcoholism in an attempt to self-medicate.If the patient does not receive proper treatment, depression can advance to the point that it leads a patient to take his or her own life.

Anxiety is characterized by feelings of lack of control and doom. Those who suffer from anxiety commonly experience rapid negative thought patterns, fears relating to everyday activities, and a rapid heart rate. People who have more severe forms of anxiety may experience panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden attacks of fear and feelings of being overwhelmed. Symptoms include tachycardia, difficulty breathing, chest pains, dizziness, and sweating.

Why Marital Stress Takes Its Toll

One of the biggest reasons that marital stress is so dangerous is because of its chronic nature. Stress related to work can be diminished when the workday is over. Plus, changing work situations is often an easy solution. Those who are stressed out due to family problems can distance themselves from family members if they must, but that is only a temporary fix and can eventually make the problem worse. Marital stress is an ongoing problem that impacts every aspect of the sufferer’s life.

Take Action

If you suffer from chronic stress as the result of marital problems, it’s important to take action so that you can reduce the risk of developing health problems and potentially save your life. Many couples find marriage counseling to be a positive influence on their marriage.

If problems persist, and are beyond even the help of a counselor, the only remaining option may be divorce. While divorces can be stressful, it may be the only way to keep from developing serious health conditions. Most experienced divorce attorneys will be able to work with their clients to get the help they need and guide them through the legal process.

Many conclusive studies have shown the link between marital stress and serious physical health problems. Many people refuse to acknowledge that they are having troubles, but if your marriage becomes a source of continual stress in your life, it’s wise to seek professional help.

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