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5 Conditions Caused by Stress

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August 11, 2020 | Published by


One of the biggest ways stress affects us is through how we cope with mental obstacles. Both stress and anxiety are seen as enemies of the mind but are both natural parts of being human. In small amounts, stress and anxiety can actually be healthy and help us overcome tough situations. However, when stress and anxiety become chronic they can lead to troublesome health issues. Here are five conditions that stress can lead to if left unmanaged.

Eating disorders and poor eating habits

If you have ever found yourself reaching for junk food while feeling overwhelmed by stress, you are not alone. Many people respond to stress by falling into an eating pattern that often results in individuals reaching for unhealthy foods containing sugar, hydrogenated oils, or even foods that may trigger allergies. Unfortunately, these foods, especially if you’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, can make you feel much worse in the long run.1

Environmental factors such as difficulties in a relationship, school, or work can also raise stress levels and cause destructive mental and behavioral patterns that can lead to other eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.2

Anxiety and panic attacks

Anxiety disorders and panic attacks, like depression, are often linked with stress. Individuals who struggle with ongoing situations that make them feel apprehensive may experience elevated stress levels that can manifest in nervousness and fear, seemingly for no reason.3

Through careful analysis it can be discerned whether a stressful situation may be the reason for one of these disorders. If the disorders continue to arise or become more frequent, it may be necessary to meet with a counselor or psychologist to deal with root issues.3

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Nearly 60% of people with IBS meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety or depression. IBS sufferers often experience mood disorders such as anxiety or depression. Some of these disorders may also occur because of poorly-controlled IBS symptoms.4

Since stress has been linked to increased movement and sensitivity in the intestines, stressors can cause unpleasant bowel symptoms. There is also research that shows that stress and mood disorders can alter our gut microbiome and affect our immune system, both of which are vital for proper gut function.4

Tension headaches

If you’ve felt a dull pain in your head or neck, like a vice around your skull, you’ve experienced a classic sign of a tension headache. An occasional tension headache is commonly set off by a single stressful event, but if you struggle with chronic stress, you may also get chronic tension headaches. This cycle of pain itself is a large stress factor, and can make the stresses of daily living feel even worse.

Insomnia

Stress keeps people awake at night due to anxiety, worry, or concern about the future. Many people worry about their careers, while others are anxious over family issues or health problems. When these stressors are left unmanaged they can interrupt or delay sleep.3

Chronic insomnia is more complex and often results from a combination of factors, including underlying physical or mental disorders. One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is depression. Other underlying causes include arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and hyperthyroidism. However, chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors, including the misuse of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances; disrupted sleep/wake cycles as may occur with shift work or other nighttime activity schedules; and chronic stress.5

Ways to help minimize stress

Thankfully, if you are feeling the effects of stress all hope is not lost. Here are some helpful tips to help manage stress.

Exercise

In addition to benefits such as promoting healthy sleep, clearing the mind, and charging endorphins, getting even a small amount of daily exercise is a well-known stress deterrent. Researchers showed that within five years, people that exercise vigorously and regularly were 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder. Those with high anxiety may find yoga, stretching, and other more “calm” exercises more helpful.8

Meditate

Meditating even once a day for 10 to 20 minutes can help you find clarity and relaxation.6 Take some time to gently close your eyes and clear your thoughts. While this may be difficult at first, over time meditation will become a mental quiet place you can always go to relax.7

Write

Dealing with chronic stress can be difficult, especially if you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder. For people who feel like they have no one they can talk to, journaling about their feelings, emotions, and thoughts can be extremely beneficial. For many, journaling can be a way to get more in touch with one’s inner self. It’s even possible to change your perceptions and worries by uncovering solutions to difficult situations though journaling.9

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

PMR is a relaxation practice aimed to lower stress levels and raise awareness of sensations of tension and deep relaxation in assorted muscle groups. The first step involves creating tension in specific muscle groups while noticing what this tension feels like in the body part. The second step is to release this muscle tension and notice what a relaxed muscle feels like as the tension diminishes. PMR has been used to manage anxiety and stress, alleviate insomnia, and decrease symptoms of certain kinds of chronic pain.10

Talk

If you’re stressed about something in life, it may bring you significant relief to talk about it with someone who has either been there or is going through it with you. According to a study led by Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor at USC Marshall School of Business, the interaction with a person who genuinely understands your emotion and response, and ideally is also experiencing it at the same time, can provide measurable relief from stress.11

References:

  1. Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid for Adrenal Fatigue. Arenalfatigue.org https://adrenalfatigue.org/foods-eat-avoid-adrenal-fatigue/
  2. Gleissner, G. Eating Disorders and Stress. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-eating-disorder-recovery/201701/eating-disorders-and-stress
  3. Alexander, R. Illnesses Caused by Stress. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/stress/illnesses-caused-stress/
  4. 5 Conditions Linked to Stress. Health Plus. https://www.mountelizabeth.com.sg/healthplus/article/health-conditions-linked-to-stress
  5. Insomnia! Ungh! What is it? And What is it Good For?. Adrenalfatigue.org https://adrenalfatigue.org/insomnia-ungh-what-is-it-and-what-is-it-good-for/
  6. Carrillo, L. 9 Steps To A Mental Wellness Staycation. Thrive Global. https://medium.com/thrive-global/9-steps-to-a-mental-wellness-staycation-6bdf5aca54d0
  7. Monahan, M. How to Practice Basic Meditation for Stress Management. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/practice-basic-meditation-for-stress-management-3144789
  8. 11 Tips to Help Manage Anxiety. Adrenalfatigue.org. https://adrenalfatigue.org/11-tips-help-manage-anxiety/
  9. How to Stop Worrying So Much. Adrenalfatigue.org. https://adrenalfatigue.org/stop-worrying-so-much/
  10. The PMR Method for Stress and Anxiety. Adrenalfatigue.org. https://adrenalfatigue.org/the-pmr-method-for-stress-and-anxiety/
  11. Curtin, E. Study Confirms: Sharing Shared Feelings Reduces Stress. GoodTherapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/study-confirms-sharing-shared-feelings-reduces-stress-0204141

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