In previous posts it has been well established that the immune system is susceptible to the cascade of effects produced by stress, but what makes one person’s immune system more susceptible? Can stress have statistically measurable and quantifiable consequences for an individual’s immune system?
Blauer-Wu recognized that stress is not the only factor that determines how well or poorly the immune system will function. He states, “An individual’s ability to cope with stress may be more important than the existence of the stress itself in terms of its effect on health.”(Blauer-Wu, 2002, pp167-170)
Individuals with high stress levels and excellent coping skills may have minimal effects from stress on the functioning of their immune systems. In contrast, low levels of stress experienced by individuals who have poor coping skills may cause significant alterations in immune functioning, increasing their susceptibility to disease. The actual degree of stress is not as important in determining its effect on the immune system as an individual’s coping skills.
Thus, we must ask whether drugs can ever be subtle enough to account for such individual variations? Have we not come full circle with the understanding that the “coping” skills of the individual are paramount? This issue of coping skills is an important one to which we will have to devote a little more attention. I’ll take up that discussion in my next post. Hope to see you there.