Stress-Related Health Impairment

How Bullying Can Affect Your Brain and Body

Stressors, aspects of the work environment and the behavior of people working there, can generate stress. Bullies are stressors, but so are coworkers who do nothing when you expect them to help. In addition, do-nothing institutional helpers -- HR and senior management -- exacerbate problems.

Stress is the biological human response to stressors. It is physiological and real, not just imagined. Low-level stress may be necessary to compel people to act. However, severe stress, which prevents rational, controlled action, has overwhelmingly negative consequences.

Distress, not eustress, is the harmful variety of stress. Distress triggers the human stress response which is an automatically coordinated release of glucocorticoids, cortisol being the most prominent hormone, that floods the brain and body. Prolonged exposure of brain tissue glucocorticoids leads to atrophy of areas responsible for memory, emotional regulation and an ability to sustain positive social relationships.

Stress-related diseases and health complications from prolonged exposure to the stressors of bullying:

  • Cardiovascular Problems: Hypertension (60%) to Strokes, Heart Attacks
  • Adverse Neurological Changes: Neurotransmitter Disruption, Hippocampus and Amygdala atrophy
  • Gastrointestinal: IBD, colitis
  • Immunological Impairment: More frequent infections of greater severity
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Fibromyalgia (21%), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (33%)
  • Diabetes (10%)
  • Skin Disorders (17%)

Some physical indications of the above stress might include:

  • Nausea
  • Tremors of the Lips, Hands, Etc.
  • Feeling Uncoordinated
  • Chills
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Chest Pain
  • Uncontrollable Crying
  • Headaches

Each of the symptoms can start small and may seem unrelated, but the presence of such indicators should be heeded as a warning.

The source of the statistics above is the WBI 2012 Impact on Employee Health Survey.


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