In class we were asked to research any topic of our choice, I decided to write about
how Stress can affect your Mental Health.
As human beings, we are constantly dealing and experiencing stress. Dating back to the first ever documentation of mankind, stress has been our bodies way of making sure our person can thrive in unknown environments and react accordingly to dangerous scenarios. In today's world, we are always subconsciously, dissecting and monitoring our stress levels. But, when stress begins to take control, our human psychology can begin to experience the rippling effects of just what this hormonal phenomenon can do. The mind and mental health, what exactly stress can do to the human brain and what alternatives can be took to fight this chronic receptor.
If you are someone who feels likes your stress has become too much to bare, and has begun to cause significant impact on your mental health it's time to consider the clinical components that go into diagnosing such disorders. Together we will discover a personal guide towards mental health and stress, understanding and effects of what chronic stress is and what it can do. Coming straight for "WebMD, the leading source for trustworthy and timely health and medical news information," What is stress? By nature, stress is your bodies way of responding to any kind of demand or threat that feels overwhelming.
When you feel stressed your body is trying to protect you from the outside dangers it's encounters. Psychically sparking your nervous system, you being to feel focused, alert, and energetic. If met with a threatening enough situation stress has the potential to save your life. For example, if you experienced a home break in you'll notice that stress can give you strength you didn't even know you were capable of to fight off threatening danger.
When discussing stress, you often here the term "Fight or Flight," as obvious as it sounds your stress response decides if you have the capability to stay and defend or run if the situation is too great. A great example of when you use fight or flight is if you've ever been heading straight in your vehicle towards a busy intersection and the light suddenly turns yellow. Your auto response is going to decide for you whether you can safety make the light to prevent a fender bender or to forcefully step on the break avoiding a potential red light running accident. The light running scenario is also a perfect example or how stress can be a healthy mental response. Stress doesn't always have to translate into being negatively detrimental.
In fact, per "HelpGuide.org," stress can also force you to rise to social or personal challenges. Claiming, for example if you have a presentation for a work meeting or even a school project you must face the class for, stress keeps your focus sharp and your words precise.
Now that we understand what stress is now let's consider what causes these bizarre feelings. By now you've learn life is an unpredictable adventure. An infinite labyrinth with ups and downs and just when you feel like you can stop and rest you get behind.
Modern day life has been argued to have more stress triggers than it did in primitive times and that could be due to the social pressures today's society has been subjected to. When it comes to why we feel the stress we do, you must look into what stress you are experiencing. Stress is broken down into two categories, External stress and Internal stress. External stress is inevitable and in most cases this stress is most often the biggest contributor to our worries. Examples of External stress are, losing your job, divorce, financial worry, death/grief of a loved one, marriage, relationships, etc.
Internal stress is more caused by triggers by the personal problems we face which can arguably be the worst kind of stress because it can be isolating. Examples of Internal stress include, being pessimistic, inability to accept, unrealistic expectations, impossible thinking, and negative outlook on one's self and or goals. The biggest public group affected by Internal stress is adolescents. Adolescents experience these stresses when, exposed to bullying, dealing with the acceptance of sexuality, questioning the size of one's own genitalia, low self-esteem, social status, etc.
After differentiating the different types of stress and breaking them down into External and Internal triggers we will now explore the signs and symptoms of too much stress. Stress symptoms of stress overload are categorized in four areas of where most of the effect is taken. The four effected areas of stress overload appear in your Cognitive symptoms, Emotional symptoms, Behavioral symptoms, and Physical symptoms. Starting with Cognitive symptoms these symptoms effect the most important part of the brain that deals with your body's functions. These symptoms often include poor judgment, racing thoughts, excessive worrying, memory loss, and feelings of delusion.
Moving to Emotion symptoms of stress overload these symptoms affect areas where you are more prone to developing long lasting chronic mental illnesses. With Emotional symptoms, you may experience, Depression or a depressive episode, Anxiety, irritability or agitation, feeling as if one is overwhelmed, and isolation. If stress is felt over a long period and has affected both your cognitive and emotional wellbeing you will begin to feel the effects in your Behavioral symptoms.
Behavioral symptoms of stress overload take place when an individual is, sleeping too much, gaining weight by binge eating, poor coping skills, and in worst case scenarios, chronic stress can result to substance abuse. Lastly, if someone is unknowledgeable on the effects of stress and they are showing symptoms of fatigue, loss of sex drive, rapid heart rate, aches and pains, dizziness, gastrointestinal issues, and even a compromised immune system they must begin to rule out contributing factors because this could be involved in the Physical symptoms of stress overload.
Exploring the signs and symptoms of stress overload we must ask why do we react to stress the way we do and how can stress transcend into unhealthy habits, feelings, emotions, and even mental illness. Working in the Mental Health field and talking to medial social workers daily, I have been taught a lot the insight into just what stress can cause to happen to the human psyche. If you've ever heard the phrase "anxious brain" that is referring to an individual who seems to just have an anxious and more stressed personality. Meanwhile some individual contract stress when dealing with the External stressors and Internal stressors. When talking about an individual who is always stressed you must consider the genetics. The human brain can develop stress by genetic mutations passed on by generations of family members who have suffered from similar illnesses.
As well-known as mental illness in in the world of science and in medicine it is also as much undiscovered as discovered. There is no scientific reasoning as to why we develop stress disorders besides genetics but even then, genes aren't always going to continue to the next member in a family blood line. Mental illness can skip as many generations it feels necessary before showing up again. Discussing stress genes, we can now look into some of the chronic mental disorders that follow it.
When individuals deal with stress overload for a long time and nothing seems to resolve or stress begins to interfere with their daily life they are usually referred to a psychologist. After an extensive period of treatment usually a psychologist will diagnosis their patients with a mental illness disorder if they find all the criteria to match.
Medical disorders as written in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5" include, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Dysthymia (type of depression), Bipolar Depressive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Clinical Depression. When suffering from these illnesses an individual usually benefits from either medication or years of intensive therapy. Mental illness is an un-curable but treatable disease that continues to expand in the world of medicine and usually stress overload contributes to much of these diagnoses.
Life experiences can also vastly contribute to triggers associated with chronic stress disorders. You may have not experienced the signs and symptoms associated with a mental disorder until finding yourself in a devastating life situation. Being a victim of Trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ranging from childhood neglect, childhood abuse/molestation, rape, military service, violent crime, etc., can cause individuals without these genetic characteristics to experience chronic stress disorders. Predispositions to alcoholism and substance abuse can be triggered when these victims try to cope with stress.
Understanding what stress is, what the signs and symptoms are and why we react the way we do let try and understand what happens to the brain and body when we experience this hormonal rush. When our body begins to encounter a threating or stressful situation the series of events that take place within our body begin in our brain, in our hypothalamus to be exact. The hypothalamus is a small section at the base of the brain near the pituitary gland (pea-sized glands responsible in regulating vital bodily functions).
The hypothalamus is responsible for playing a role in some of your most important functions like regulating emotional responses, managing sexual behavior, controlling appetite, regulating body temperature, and releasing hormones. Your hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release the two stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. The two hormones work together and begin coursing through the body giving you that physical feeling of your blood getting either cold or warm.
After these two stress hormones are released the hormones get your blood pressure to rise sending as much blood as possible to your heart, muscles, and organs. Usually when these threats subside and the fearful situation has ended the hypothalamus tells the stress hormones to no longer be released. Even if adrenaline and cortisol continues being released after the threat has subsided this indicates a stress related disorder.
In talking about the neurotransmitters or adrenaline and cortisol, the human body's nervous system will continue to release these hormones in any life threatening or unique situations but, being overstressed and having cortisol constantly in the human body long term is a recipe for disaster. High levels of Cortisol resulting from long term exposures to stress can result in several illnesses that have the potential to be fatal. Stress hormones in the brain can physically shrink the DNA cells in our bodies until they can no longer replicate heading to health issues. 2.Long exposure to stress can increase your chances of contracting disease such as, Dementia, Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and with resent studies Alzheimer's Disease. Stress caused by trauma can also have fatal and unpredictable outcomes. People use range a six and about on their ACE score (ACE is a tally of different types of abuse. Per the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be.) are ten times more likely to have a premature death. Trauma is also the number one leading cause of death for people older than forty-five years old. Last year alone there were also forty thousand homicidal and suicidal deaths. (AAST.org trauma-facts)
Not only can higher levels of stress cause homicidal and suicidal deaths. Lifelong stress can also increase natural death within individuals who suffer from genetic stress and trauma stress. Stress over time puts strain on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system.
Along with stress in learning what causes it and why we react the way we do, we learned that it can be caused from genetic makeup or simply because of the external stressors we suffer from living in today's world, but there are many ways we can deal with stress in many healthy coping skills. Developed for centuries doctors and psychiatrists have introduced their patients to the ideas of grasping and treating mental health. For example, therapists conduct specific therapies for patients dealing with stress related disorders. The most common of these practices are CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
A direct quote from (Hasse Karlsson-ma-md-phd from How Psychotherapy can change the Brain) "Drawn together, these system level studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectic behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic psychotherapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy alter brain function in patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder (BPD)"
Psychotherapy is one of the many ways one can cope to stress. Science explains that after developing a healthy habit takes about thirty days and the same goes for breaking a unhealthy habit. Stress management tips include, keeping a positive attitude, acceptance, exercise, eating healthy and well balanced meals, and not relying on alcohol, drugs and compulsive behaviors.
Another form of stress management has been traced back to Asia thousands of years ago when Buddhists monks. The practice of meditation and yoga. From the Mayo Clinic of Yoga Stress Management, the author writes, "Yoga - a mind-body practice - is considered one of many types of complementary and integrative health approaches. Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. This can help you relax and manage stress and anxiety." Meditation and yoga is very controversial in some modern cultures but per doctors, the practice is slowly become one of the best forms of stress management and the most effective way to take care of yourself.
The Mind and Mental health: when dealing with this chronic receptor it's easy to fall into the compulsive habits and negative consequences that come with a life surrounded by its dark shadow. But, can a change in lifestyle and a look into some of the most controversial practices cure this hormonal phenomenon?
Cherry, Kendra. "5 Surprising Ways That Stress Affects Your Brain." Verywell Mind
"How Stress Affects Your Body and Behavior." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
"Stress Symptoms: Physical Effects of Stress on the Body." WebMD
"Yoga: Fight Stress and Find Serenity." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research