Should 'Stressed Out' be a Diagnosis?
When you hear the words "stressed out" what images pop into your mind? Do you imagine your blood pressure going up? Or do you start to feel really agitated and angry? Anxious?
Or perhaps feeling emotional is a better description. Are you exhausted yet you can’t go to sleep or stay sleep?
If you feel any or all of these symptoms then you could be stressed out! In the medical community we don’t really have a good term to describe what happens when you are chronically releasing stress hormones all the time.
Even though we don’t have a word for it, still it impacts your body and depletes it over time.
What we call stress is a normal part of our body’s processing. When we encounter a stressful situation our body immediately releases chemicals and hormones to help us handle the situation.
Once we have handled the stressful situation our bodies then return to a normal relaxed or rested state. Tens of thousands of years ago stressful states were generally brought on by life-threatening situations where we needed to be on alert to survive.
In response to these life-threatening situations our body releases our primary stress hormone, cortisol, which increases our blood pressure and our heart rate, increases the amount of glucose in our body, and increases our mental alertness.
This release of cortisol also reduces other hormones and chemicals that ordinarily would help keep us calm and able to rest or sleep.
Our stress hormones are designed to be released quickly, act quickly, and then dissipate. In our current society we are more likely to find ourselves getting stressed about things that are not life-threatening . Our stress hormones are being released because our boss doesn’t like our projects or because we are sitting in traffic.
These situations are not life-threatening but they can emotionally affect us the same way as a life-threating event and our bodies react in the same way.
This creates overuse of the stress response, which over time begins to rob our body of nutrients, minerals and the building blocks for our hormones.
We begin to have symptoms like constant fatigue, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight gain, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes.
Emotionally we may feel depressed or anxious. We may be constantly quick to anger or frustration.
We don’t have a medical name for it and in conventional medicine they treat the symptoms and don’t address the cause, which is the overproductions of cortisol.
How do we treat the cause? Quit or jobs and move the country? While that might be nice, whereever you go you take your mind set and behaviors with you.
We can treat stress the naturopathic way by addressing the basics -- your stress management systems, your eating and sleeping habits, your exercise, and potentially nutritional supplementation.
It might seem like a simple solution to a complex problem but trust me -- or ask my patients -- it works and it can transform your life.