Chronic stress disorder

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Chronic stress disorder“What stress!” – we say this when we feel anxious, worried, overburdened by problems. However, aside from an acutely expressed stress response, there is also chronic stress which can be related to the existence of constant problems that gradually accumulate. Since chronic stress increases gradually, little by little, it is possible that it goes unnoticed – one may think: “Today I feel a little worse than yesterday, I shouldn’t be worried”. However, this does not make stress less dangerous, on the contrary. Chronic stress is most often related to problems that the person has the most difficulty solving – difficult family situation, problems at work, problems with illness. Inner conflicts also belong here, when a certain situation has both good and bad aspects that are equally desired, e.g., when a person does not like his job, but needs the money it brings; when a wife does not love her husband, but cannot survive without him, etc. Next danger here is that we often attempt to deny existence of these problems; the mechanism of denial at work: if a person fails to solve the problem the first time, he can pretend that the problem is simply not there. However, despite being suppressed from consciousness, the problem does not disappear, but manifests itself in ways that are no longer under conscious control: in dreams, imagination, and rather unpleasant psychosomatic symptoms. 

In today’s world there is a lot of talk about stress that is related to administrative or controller jobs, environmental pollution, retirement, physical exertion, family problems or death of a relative. The word “stress”, similar to “success”, “failure” and “happiness”, has different meanings for different people. Commonly understood under this label are: fatigue, pain, fear, necessity to concentrate, disregard for public judgment, loss of blood or even unexpectedly huge success which leads to the complete disruption of one’s way of life. A businessman who feels constant pressure from his clients and employees; the air traffic controller who knows that a minute of low attention can mean hundreds of casualties; an athlete who hungers for victory; a husband who helplessly watches his wife slowly and painfully die from cancer – all of these people experience stress. Their problems may be completely different, but medical research has shown that organism reacts in a stereotypic fashion with the same biochemical changes whose purpose is to cope with needs that arose in the human organism. 

Chronic stress usually appears in two ways: as a consequence of a sudden stressful situation, or as a result of seemingly unimportant, but numerous and long-term stressors (often representing different and unusual combinations of the situations mentioned above). 

Chronic stress disorder symptoms

Basic characteristic of the chronic fatigue syndrome is chronic and continual exhaustion. The main difference between chronic and ordinary fatigue is in its lack of tendency to fully disappear even after long period of rest. It is not uncommon that after long period of rest the patient feels fully recovered, only to have the symptoms return already in the first week of resuming ordinary life.

If the episodic stress often goes unnoticed, then the chronic stress disorder and overly irritated vegetative nervous system manifest with certain physical symptoms. Initial symptoms are relatively benign, e.g., chronic headaches and increased susceptibility to colds. However, if the situation that is conducive to chronic stress disorder remains unchanged, more serious health problems can appear. 

Among some of the most serious consequences of chronic stress disorder are: 

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hair loss 
  • Heart disease 
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Sexual disorders
  • Teeth and gums diseases
  • Stomach ulcers

In addition, it has been found that 90 percent of all health problems are, to a varying extent, related to stress! 

Chronic stress dirsorder examples

  1. Headaches during the weekend or during vacation – sudden decrease of stress levels outside of work can cause headaches.
  2. Bruxism (grinding or clenching of the teeth) – people clench their teeth under stress. This can lead not only to jaw pains, but also to increased wearing down of the teeth. At night, during sleep and due to the lack of conscious control, this process is more pronounced, leading to bruxism – grinding of the teeth. 
  3. Nightmares – during the night, our dreams have a tendency to gradually improve, so that in the morning we usually wake up in a better mood than we were in the previous night. Stress causes more frequent waking during the night, interrupting sleep and provoking reoccurrence of nightmares. 
  4. Bleeding gums – stress increases the risk of periodontal disease. High levels of cortisol (stress hormone) damage the immune system and enable bacteria in the mouth to easily multiply. 
  5. Blackheads – stress increases inflammation processes in the skin, leading to the appearance of breakouts. 
  6. Itching of the skin – a recent study by Japanese scientists, conducted on more than 2000 people, showed that people suffering from chronic itching were twice as susceptible to stress. Besides the fact that itching alone can provoke a stressful reaction, the experts agree that there is a high likelihood that feelings of anxiety and tension intensify the causes underlying skin diseases such as dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. 
  7. Worsening of allergic reactions – stress hormones stimulate the production of immunoglobulin E, which acts to provoke allergic reactions. 
  8. Stomach pains – anxiety and stress can cause stomach pains, intestinal pain, as well as pain in other parts of the body – head, back, and can also provoke insomnia. 

What to do about stress disorder? First, you need to understand the underlying cause, and if possible to remove it. At the same time, experts advise to work on optimizing one’s daily schedule, relying on help and support from family and friends. It is also important to take care of oneself – to rest, to engage in physical exercise, to practice meditation.  
In some cases, stress disorder reaches such high levels that it leads to development of serious diseases where medical help and treatment is required (e.g., herbs or medications). If you find it hard to get rid of the feelings of anxiety or if you notice symptoms of depression, feel dissatisfied or disappointed in your behavior or behavior of people close to you, or if you simply feel a need for professional advice, talk to your doctor. 

In any case, you should not allow stress to harm your health. Seeking help in a timely manner will help you quickly resume a healthy, happy life. 

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