Psychoimmunological effects of stress

(Maydych, Kleinsorge)

Whether due to overtaxing working conditions or taking exams, having family problems or traumatic experiences, stress plays an ever larger role in modern society and increasingly causes stress-related disorders. In addition to adverse effects on mental health, long-term stressors affect the immune system by releasing stress hormones and suppressing certain functions of the immune system. As a consequence, resistance to pathogens decreases. Moreover, a compromised immune system can promote the development of new diseases or aggravate existing diseases.

Cognitive appraisal (co-)determines whether an event will be perceived as stressful. Only if an individual perceives a situation as burdening and threatening, a stress response will be initiated. Thus, an individual’s cognitive appraisal is a key factor determining why some people are highly stressed by certain situations, while others are hardly affected. Since the immune system is closely related to the nervous system and the endocrine system, it is evident that immune response to stress also varies among people.

The aim of our research is to analyze the changes the immunological state induced by anticipated and acute stress and to determine the impact of individual differences in cognition and affect on these changes.