After reading this essay you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Tension 2. Causes of Tension 3. Effects 4. Anatomy and Physiology.
Essay on the Meaning of Tension:
Tension is a term which psychologists have borrowed from physics. It is physiological (bio-chemical) change resulting from an overloading force on the system. Every physiological change is likely to produce corresponding psychological change and conversely every psychological change may lead to physiological change.
Before we get into the term tension and explain the ways and means to get rid of it, it is important to understand the nature of stress. Stress is a global term and tension is simply one form of stress. The word stress comes from the latin word stringere, which means “to draw tight”. Stress is one’s physical, mental and chemical response to things that frighten, excite, confuse, endanger or irritate.
Stress varies on a continuum from Eustress or Neustress and finally to Distress. When the stress is unfavourable and potentially disease producing, it is labelled as distress or tension. When an individual is able to maintain steady internal state as a stress response, it is known as neustress.
If stress response is favourable and results in improvement in physical and mental functioning, it is called eustress. The effect of stress is dependent on the type of stressors and weight that an individual attaches to the stressors while reacting.
To place this reaction in mathematical formula, S-O-R (Stress Organism – Response) can be defined as:
R = f (S.O.)
where, R is response to stressful situation
S – Stressors
O – Organism that is being stimulated
f – Function of
The response is thus dependent on type of stressor and how an individual, who is involved, reacts to a particular situation. Before one proceeds further, it is necessary to understand the term ‘Stressor”. Stressor is the agent or demand that evokes a patterned response; it is that which causes stress.
It must be understood that there is need to maintain balance of body, mind and spirit. There is need to find a way between the extremes of hypo and hyper tension and both are bad for an individual. One can have hypo-stress by having physical immobility, boredom and sensory deprivation.
Selye (1979) suggests that all organisms go through a General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) which passes through three stages:
(a) Alarm reaction which is comprised of shock phase (the initial and immediate reaction to a noxious agent) and counter shock phase, a mobilisation of defence phases in which the adrenal cortex becomes further enlarged and secretes more costicoid hormones.
(b) Stage of resistance which involves adapting to the stressor stimulus but decreasing one’s ability to cope with subsequent stimulus.
(c) Stage of exhaustion which follows a period of prolonged or severe adaptation.
Tension imposes demand on the body for its proper adaptation. If it is not handled carefully, it may cause inbreeding of various diseases in the body. Every disease in turn causes certain amount of tension as it demands need for adaptation. The effects of tension may be cured by various therapies such as shock therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy etc.
The effects of tension are damaging when they go beyond the adaptability level. Tension affects the weakest limb of the body which is manifested in the form of various diseases of nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, heart problem and the like.
There is need to maintain balance of mind. Some people experience grief which directs their psychic energy inward against their own natural body defences.
Different persons’ respond to a particular tension provoking situation differently:
There is need to develop a balanced state of mind to convert the stress responses into beneficial effects. Though the cause of tension can be failure, it should be taken as a stepping stone for success. Tension can also be due to mishaps. Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us. It is necessary to evaluate one’s performance, as success is never final and failure is never fatal, it is the courage that counts.
Human body reacts both mentally and physically in stressful situations which leads to ‘flight or fight’ responses. Psychoneuro-immunologists believe that stress affects people infected with Human Immunological deficiency Virus (HIV) which develops AIDS and even shorten length of their survival.
Latest studies reported at American Association for Advancement of Science Convention at San Fransisco held in January 1990 have indicated that stress can be linked with various illnesses especially those caused by latent viruses e.g. stress can activate the herpes viruses which may lie dormant in the body for years.
Tension affects the whole body; it is merely a question as to which part breaks first. The great enemy of human health is not the occasional crisis or dangerous situation but it is the prolonged unrelieved state of worry, anxiety and arousal that people experience and can’t escape.
Essay on the Causes of Tension:
The causes of the tension can broadly be explained under the following three headings:
(i) Environmental Causes:
These are solely external factors existing in the individual’s physical world e.g. drugs, noise, humidity, temperature variations, chemical pollutants, flood and the like.
(ii) Social Causes:
These are externally induced and result from interaction of the individual with his environment, e.g. death of a loved one, retirement, divorce, these are negative stressors which create distress, and marriage ceremonies, engagement etc. are positive stressors which normally create eustress.
(iii) Self Induced:
These are the most damaging ones due to their recurrent nature. To a great extent their intensification depends on the individual’s personality make-up, e.g., frustration, guilt, worry, anger, resentment, inferiority, self-pity, etc.
Different individuals react differently to different situations. Behaviour and mood of a person is not only dependent on present situation; but is deeply affected by one’s hope, desire, wish, and how one sees his own accumulated experience of the past. Competence to deal with tension differs from individual to individual depending on their emotional reactions, persistence, flexibility and degree of ego-defensiveness.
Essay on the Effects of Tension:
The effects of tension can be either short term or long term.
A. Short-Term Effects:
These are less intense and last for shorter periods of time.
Effects can be broadly studied under four heads as follows:
(a) Behavioural Effects:
These effects can be observed in an individual due to changing behaviour, e.g. over-eating or excessive consumption of tea, coffee, etc.
(b) Emotional Effects:
The individual undergoing tension shows heightened anxiety, depression or anger.
(c) Cognitive Effects:
The person affected by tension shows increased distractibility and decreased concentration on any task.
(d) Physiological Effects:
The organism feels rapid heartbeat, high/low blood pressure and heightened muscle tension.
B. Long-Term Effects:
These effects are more damaging and stay for longer period. These are very intense and disease producing.
These long term effects can again be studied under the following four heads:
(a) Behavioural Disorders:
The individual under heightened tension shows the symptoms of obesity and alcoholism.
(b) Emotional Disorders:
The individual shows chronic anxiety, depression, phobia, mental illness etc.
(c) Cognitive Disorders:
The individual shows the symptoms of memory loss, sleep disorders and problems of obsessive thoughts.
(d) Physiological Disorders:
The individual undergoes severe headaches, hypertension and heart diseases.
Some of the general ways of dealing with tension include:
(i) To remove unwanted causes of tension from one’s life.
(ii) Not to allow certain events to become ‘tension provoking’.
(iii) To develop technique to handle tension so that it leads to least possible bad effects.
(iv) To increase capacity to bear the tension demand by seeking relaxation and by diversion to pleasure giving habits.
Tension can be handled among other approaches by relaxation techniques.
The technique of Shavasana, auto-suggestion and meditation was tried in hospital but perhaps failed in reaching the in-depth stage of the same. From this, an important principle can be derived that one’s intake of food and medicine affects the functioning of mind. For meditation, it is important to take care of the food.
Anatomy and Physiology of Tension:
A recession is a period in which one tightens one’s belt, depression is a time when one has no belt to tighten and it is tension period when one has no trousers to hold. The French blame their liver for all their ills, the Indians blame their stars, while Americans attribute everything to stress. Researchers have lent respectability to the American notion by linking central nervous system to the activity of immune system.
Nervous system consists of nerves, brain and spinal cord. It controls the working of various organs of the body. Studies by Psycho-physiologists show that the bodily changes, which occur during tension, are produced by autonomic nervous system which is a part of peripheral nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system physiologically consists of many nerves leading from brain and spinal cord to smooth muscle of various organs of the body, to the heart, to certain glands and to the blood vessels which serve both the interior and the exterior parts of the body.
The autonomic nervous system, from functioning point of view, consists of two parts:
(a) Sympathetic nervous system, and
(b) Para-sympathetic nervous system.
Sympathetic nervous system is active during aroused state and para-sympathetic system is active in calm and relaxed state. There is need to maintain a balance of sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system activities to get optimum result. The control and regulation of the functioning of internal organs is the work of para-sympathetic nerves.
In case of stress, sympathetic nerves take over and releases chemical substances called adrenaline at their nerve ends and send to different organs of the body. The purpose of adrenaline is to prepare the body to fight stress. From neurological point of view, when one is chronically tense one loses the ability to mobilise one’s para-sympathetic system.
If the gap between aroused state and calm state increases, one becomes tense. The optimum level of result can be obtained when the gap between the functioning of the two remains within the permissible limit. When one adopts relaxation technique, one’s capacity to match with aroused state of affair increases. This can be understood from Fig. 4.1.
Both diagrams show permissible arousal state, because the gap between AB and CD remains within permissible limit.
When the imbalance occurs there is need to:
1. Reduce arousal state activities or
2. Increase relaxed state activities.
The Chemistry of Tension:
External stimuli from environment are perceived by cerebral cortex of the brain. This information is passed to hypothalamus, which in turn passes information on to the pituitary gland which controls the release of all the hormones for the purpose of taking up different activities.
This gland lies in underface of the brain at the base of the skull. Its size is about the size of a pea and weighs about half a gram.
Pituitary has two parts viz.:
(a) Anterior lobe, and
(b) Posterior lobe.
The former produces about ten hormones and the latter produces about two hormones. Pituitary gland controls the activities of the whole body by affecting thyroid, the adrenals, sex glands etc.
There are two Adrenal glands which are also called supradrenals because they sit on the surface of the kidneys in the abdomen. Each one weighs about 5 grams, is triangular in shape and is about the size of the last phalanx of the thumb. The inner core of this is called medulla and the outer portion is called cortex.
The release of hormones from this gland is small in quantity but is very powerful. The two important hormones that are released by the medulla of the Adrenal after receiving impulses from Hypothalamus which in turn receives message from Cerebral cortex which initially senses the stress.
The two harmones released in the blood stream are:
(a) Adrenaline, and
The release of these hormones in the blood, make the liver to release more glucose (source of energy) and constrict capillaries in the skin which make it look pale and the blood of the skin gets diverted to the muscle and the internal organs.
The heart rate increases, the arteries constrict and as a result the blood pressure rises. The digestion system gets stopped because in the in-built system this is not considered important. Clotting time of blood is lessened and bleeding stops from the wound.
To nullify the bad effect of tension, impulses from the Hypothalamus stimulate the Pituitary gland to release another hormone called ACTH (Andreno Corticotrophic Hormone). This hormone acts upon the cortex of the adrenals and make it release its hormone in the blood.
The purpose of the release of these hormones is to bring normal state in the body by bringing down the raised blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. The complex in-built system equips the individual to handle the stressful situation but prolonged period of tension leads to overburdening of the system. This becomes starting point of diseases like stomach ulceration, heart trouble, and high blood pressure.