The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary reactions of the body. The ANS controls all cardiac, smooth muscles and secretion of the glands to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s internal temperature regulator. Anything that affects homeostasis can cause serious health risk. Although the name autonomic suggests the ability to function on its own apart from the central nervous system (CNS) there has been evidence to the contrary such as an individual changing their pupils from ‘constricted dots to dilated circles’ or producing goose bumps.
The ANS is also important in stress. Stress as defined by Selye is a state of being the body is in manifested by external agents. Stress affects homeostasis thus is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (Thibodeau and Patton, 1996). The ANS is grouped into three divisions: the parasympathetic nervous system, the sympathetic system and the enteric nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the normal conditions of the body. It is an antagonist of the parasympathetic nervous system. A good example of this concerns the heartbeat.
The parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow the heart and cause it to weaken. The sympathetic nervous system sends impulse to maintain the normal rate of the heart. The sympathetic nervous system is very important as well in maintaining blood pressure. However, the most important job of the sympathetic nervous system is to serve as the “emergency system”. This system regulates the ‘fight or flight response’. When the sympathetic nervous system comes in contact with stress it excites the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus sends impulses between the cerebral cortex and the autonomic nervous system. The excitement of the sympathetic nervous system causes the blood pressure to go up, the heartbeat to increase, sweat, dryness of the mouth and light-headedness. The parasympathetic nervous system reacts to the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system. If the sympathetic nervous system is responding to a ‘fight or flight response’ then the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant during ‘rest and repair’ of the body (Thibodeau and Patton, 1996).
The enteric nervous system has been called the ‘brain of the stomach’. There is a mass of nerves, neurotransmitters and proteins in the stomach that when stress you feel what most refer to as a “knot’ in their stomach. It is thought to deal with happiness and misery of an individual. It is independent and remembers. Like the other divisions it responds to stress. Several diseases are located around the enteric nervous system like colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, both of which could be stress related (Psyking. net, 2006).
In responding to a client about stress management and correlation between the ‘fight or flight’ response could best be explained by understanding that the sympathetic nervous system will respond to certain external conditions. Stress can not be avoided but can be eliminated long term. It is important to explain to the client that he or she must allow the body to calm down for the body to go back into a ‘rest and repair’ state. A constant state of stress will cause health problems some that can not be reversed. In summary it not short period of stress that is detrimental it the long term stress that can cause serious problems.
Biofeedback as the name implies allows patients to be reward when certain conditions are achieved. For example people who suffer from migraines have dilation of the blood vessels surrounding the brain. An instrument placed in a patient’s hands can remove the blood from the head to the head by producing a high pitch sound. The reward for this is a lessening of the migraine. Physically the instrument diminishes the pain; however, psychologically it is the patient’s cognitive belief that the instrument will work that also lessens the pain felt by him or her.
A person’s belief can be beneficial as with the migraine sufferers or can lead to added stress. A belief in certain religions can cause physical harm, a heighten response for the sympathetic nervous system thus leading to stress. References Thibodeau, G. A. , & Patton, K. T. (1996). Anthony’s Textbook of Anatomy and Physiology. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Publishing. The Enteric Nervous System: The Brain in the Gut. Retrieved June 18, 2006, from http://www. psyking. net/id36_m. htm.