Psychophysiological Stress Profile

In modern society, the impact of stress on mind and body is increasingly significant, and in the medical field, the proportion of stress-related disorders such as psychosomatic disorders, lifestyle diseases, and functional disorders is increasing year by year. In these disorders, stress (psychosocial factors) plays a complex and chronic role in the pathophysiology, making treatment difficult with conventional methods such as medication alone.

The “Psychophysiological Stress Profile (PSP)” is a method of psychosomatic medical assessment that examines how physiological functions of the body react to stress, looking at the mind-body correlation.

Physiological Response to Stress

When stress occurs, the body responds in various ways to cope with it. These stress responses are important for maintaining our mental and physical health.

  • Tension in the sympathetic nervous system (e.g., increased sweating and heart rate)
  • Increase in stress hormones (e.g., cortisol and amylase)
  • Changes in immune function (e.g., natural killer cells)

Thanks to these functions, we maintain our health even under stress. Among these, physiological responses centered on autonomic nervous system function are rapid and constantly changing, making them easy to understand. It is said that there are individual characteristics of these changes, which are influenced by factors such as the stress situation at that time.

Stress Profile

In the Stress Profile, physiological indicators of several systems such as the autonomic nervous system and muscle tension are examined, as well as the recovery process from stress similar to mental work stress in daily work, and the relationship with subjective bodily sensations and psychological tests is investigated.

Normally, stress triggers the following responses:

  • Increased emotional sweating (sweaty palms)
  • Peripheral blood vessels constrict and skin temperature decreases (fingertips become cold)
  • Heart rate increases (heart pounding)
  • Muscle tension increases

Emotional indicators may be exaggerated, while vascular responses may be diminished, and recovery after stress may be delayed.

Thus, the Stress Profile evaluates individual response patterns and the stress situation at that time.

Stress Profile in Stress-related Disorders

Research has shown that stress responses in stress-related disorders differ from those in healthy individuals. For example, a pattern of consistently low responses compared to healthy individuals suggests a transition to a pathological state, termed allostatic load. Such low-response patterns are a significant characteristic of stress-related disorders. Additionally, patterns of excessively high responses or delayed recovery from responses have also been identified.

From these response patterns, we are evaluating the pathophysiology of stress-related disorders and considering appropriate psychosomatic approaches.

So why do stress responses, originally intended to maintain health, change in stress-related disorders? The stress responses inherent in our bodies are presumed to be necessary when fighting or fleeing from enemies (sympathetic nervous system function), and to recover when not in such situations (parasympathetic nervous system function). However, in modern stress situations without clear boundaries between day and night or on and off, the balance and switching of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are disrupted.

Such situations persist chronically, causing individuals to exhibit stress responses different from those of healthy individuals, eventually leading to stress-related disorders.

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