December 11, 2017

Stress Symptoms – What You Don’t Know Can Kill You

People often think of stress as being something negative when in fact it is a very normal feeling that occurs to protect one’s body. When one senses danger, the body suddenly goes into a defense mode by generating a stress response, one of which is the “fight-or-flight” response.  These kinds of stress responses help one meet challenges, power through tough situations, and stay alerted to any dangers.

However, once stress levels reach a certain point, they begin to be poorly managed and are no longer helpful.  As a result, excess stress can actually begin to have negative effects on one’s mental and physical health.  For this reason, it is crucial to be able to recognize the symptoms of stress so that action can be taken when one’s stress levels start to take a turn for the worse.

Stress Symptoms

There are several signs and symptoms which point to stress overload.  Not all people who suffer from stress will have all of these symptoms.  Just as each person is unique so are the symptoms they may experience.

 

  • inability to sleep well or sleep at all
  • headaches, pains in the chest, and/or stomach related problems
  • high levels of anxiety and emotional arousal
  • feeling overly panicked
  • development of eczema, asthma, or other allergic reactions
  • over consumption of alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, or drugs
  • overeating
  • increased irritability
  • unexplainable mood swings
  • feeling of isolation or loneliness
  • constantly racing thoughts and the inability to slow them down
  • heightened sex drive
  • giddiness, nausea, or dizziness
  • fatigue and needing to sleep much more than really needed
  • development of nervous habits such as pacing, biting one’s nails, jiggling one’s legs, or drumming on surfaces
  • negative outlook on situations
  • increase in rapidity of heartbeat
  • procrastinating or complete neglect of one’s duties and responsibilities
  • weakened immune system which can result in frequent colds
  • body aches cause by the constant tensing of muscles

It should be noted that there are several other reasons and medical conditions that can cause any number of the stress symptoms listed above. It is important to consult a doctor about these symptoms rather than relying on a self-diagnosis.

stress and depressionPTSD Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a result of traumatic stress.  PTSD can manifest itself in those who have gone through an extremely traumatic or harrowing experience.  It is not uncommon in soldiers, those who have been physically and/or sexually abused, those affected by terrorist attacks, sexual or physical assault victims, people who have been in serious accidents, or those who have lived through terrible natural disasters.

Symptoms of PTSD can be terrible and have a tendency to disrupt the entire life of its victims.

PTSD symptoms fall into four major categories:

1. Reliving, or re-experiencing the traumatic event

 

  • vivid memories of the event come back frequently and unexpectedly
  • these memories trigger the same feelings one had during the event
  • flashbacks are often triggered by sounds, sights, or hearing stories about events similar  to the one which caused one’s own PTSD

2. Avoidance

 

  • Many people with PTSD avoid situations or things which remind them of a traumatic event
  • For example, someone who has lived through a tsunami might avoid visiting beaches or countries at risk to tsunamis
  • Keeping oneself extremely busy in order to not allow time to think about or talk about a traumatic event is also a symptom of PTSD

3. Numbness

 

  • a lack of affection or positive feelings towards others
  • avoidance of relationships
  • inability to recollect all or parts of a traumatic event
  • inability to talk about the traumatic event

4. Hyper arousal

 

  • constantly jittery
  • always on alert for any signs of danger
  • sudden feelings of anger
  • easily and sometimes inexplicably irritable
  • difficulty in sleeping
  • difficulty maintaining one’s concentration
  • easily startled

There are other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, some of which are:

 

  • problems with drugs or drinking
  • difficulty in finding or keeping a job
  • feeling ashamed, hopeless, or despaired
  • strained or unmaintainable relationships

Causes and Risks for Stress

Stress overload can be caused by many things.  Some of the most common causes are:

 

  • pressures having to do with work or school
  • relationship troubles and family troubles that trigger heavy emotions
  • financial concerns
  • major changes in one’s life, such as divorce, moving house, or pregnancy
  • prolonged painful physical conditions or illnesses
  • loss of a loved one
  • uncertainty caused by having to wait for the outcome of something like an exam, job interview, or lab test

Risk factors for stress can include one or more of the following:

 

  • unhealthy childhood experiences
  • personality traits that cause one to not be able to handle stressful situations well
  • diseases like eczema and rheumatoid arthritis can impair one’s ability to respond to stress
  • genetics can affect the serotonin levels in one’s body, thus hindering one’s ability to be calm

Treatment for Stress

There are a few ways to relieve or treat stress overload. Many people opt to try and help themselves before consulting an expert. Those suffering from stress have found exercise to be extremely helpful as it pumps endorphins, neurotransmitters which make one feel good, through one’s body. Making small changes, such as sharing one’s workload, learning how to say ‘no’, and setting aside some time during the day to do something for oneself can also help reduce stress levels. Nutrition, restricting caffeine intake, and doing breathing exercises are also effective. However, there are always experts available to consult when needed and they might prescribe medication to those who have no other option available to them.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cannot be treated without the help of an expert. Experts usually ask their patients to undergo cognitive-behavioral therapy focused on their specific needs, family therapy, or some other treatment that allows someone with PTSD to explore and share their thoughts and feelings. Medication is also common and is prescribed to reduce feelings of anxiety or to treat depression.

Effects of Stress on the Body

Over a period of time, stress can have everything from easily curable to serious effects on one’s body. Headaches, muscular aches, chest pain, and fatigue are common. An increase in blood pressure as well as difficulty in breathing are prevalent and can even result in a heart attack. Stress can aggravate preexisting conditions like diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and skin conditions. Stress can also lower one’s sex drive.

It is clear that stress overload and chronic stress can have severe effects on one’s physical and mental health. This is why it is so important to know and recognize the warning signs so that one can get help as soon as possible.

 

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