Is Stress Ruining your Health?
by Farhana Rahman
Photo by Francisco Morena
Warning Signs of Stress
When people visit the doctor they don’t always say that they are suffering from symptoms of stress. They very rarely ask for advice on stress management techniques or ways to reduce stress. In fact, most of the time they don’t mention the word stress at all.
In fact, stress-related symptoms are much more vague:
“I have no energy”
“I’m constantly on edge”
“There’s no time”
“I can’t sleep”
“I feel low”
“I’m just so...tired”
As doctors, we see stress come in every shape and size.
Sometimes patients will just come out and say it. But so often, it just lurks there like a shadow, hitherto unseen and unnoticed, casting its shade onto every facet of daily life.
Stress Can Cause Other Symptoms
We’ve already talked about the stress health connection in one of our earlier blogs where we went through some of the studies and research that have looked into this.
But speaking to other doctors, we know that there are certain phenomena that people commonly present with.
Common Health Phenomena Related to Stress
Here are the most common health manifestations of stress that patients typically present with. Maybe you can recognize a few:
Patients will often come in feeling that they’ve lost the energy to do things that used to come easily. This can relate to family, work and hobbies and it can leave some people feeling upset.
This is extremely common and an area people normally feel uncomfortable talking about. It can sometimes lead to a cycle of stress and worsening isolation in relationships.
Worry and anxiety
It’s common for people suffering the effects of stress to spend time ruminating and worrying about the future. Things that were previously manageable now seem more overwhelming.
Patients may find that they lose their temper more often than before or that they get upset more easily. It can feel like an emotional roller-coaster at times and can be particularly difficult when it comes to relationships.
We all have different relationships with food and stress can push us to extremes. Overeating or binging is just as common as appetite loss.
Exacerbation of Ongoing Health Conditions
Many people find that existing health conditions are worsened by stress. Conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, migraines and asthma can all be worsened by stress.
Treatment and Investigation of Stress
Of course, there is a role for investigation and treatment when we hear these concerns. The symptoms we’ve outline are non-specific and can be seen in a variety of conditions so excluding a more serious or physiological cause is important. There’s also a large overlap with other mental health conditions which are important to recognize and treat.
But what do we do when the blood work comes back normal and we’ve explored anxiety and depression ?
It’s then time for us to talk honestly about the elephant in the room: lifestyle and the unsustainably high levels of stress that each of us carry around every day.
It comes as no surprise that we’re all running on empty. But the sheer volume of stress-related symptoms, health issues and stress effects that we see is alarming and demands urgent attention.
In our next post we’ll be going through some of our top lifestyle modifications to tackle this.