Friday Nov 3rd, 2017 – Health Talk: Understanding The Disease Entity Called Stress
By Dr Joel Akande
Stress is one of the commonest illnesses that exist. The sad thing about stress is that most people undergoing stress, very often do not recognise that they are suffering from the disease entity called stress. Such a person may ascribe the consequences of stress to some other imaginary illness. Further, a third party such as wife, husband as the case may be or a relative may be blamed for the virtual breakdown that the victim suffers from.
What is stress as an illness? When we talk of stress, we are referring to a clinical disorder. Stress in our case is distinct from stress that physicists or mechanical engineer or civil engineer may refer to. However the principle behind the various definition of stress is the same. Also, the consequences of stress which is a breakdown of the bearer of stress be it mechanical or human is similar.
With this in mind, let us now consider what amounts to human stress condition. When demand outstrips the resources or supply that is required to meet the said demand, then a state of stress has been established. It may be over demand on one’s time, energy or attention.
What causes stress?
The demand that I mentioned above could come from any source. It may be financial stress in which case, the monetary requirement to meet some conditions is far short of what is required. In that case, the person may fall into a disorder of stress. On the other hand, stress, may be due to matrimonial issues such as sexual demand of one partner, behavioral issues of one or both partners. Stress may also be due to employment demands. The job or school work may be busy or complex against the knowledge and time of the employee. Such employee may be in considerable stress to meet the fulfillment and time constrained associated with the job. Stress may be due to physical or mental illness that refused to get resolved. Chronic illnesses may give rise to stressful experiences as the victim struggles on daily basis to get well and fully functional. Some persons may be stressed by the human condition, the world affairs and the chaos that the world is going through. Wars, rumors of war, stampede, political upheavals, insecurities, natural disasters and man-made events could all lead to stress for a lot of people. It may look ordinary to some but traffic congestions are stressful to most if not all of us. Family issues, recalcitrant children, bothersome siblings and troubles from extended family may all lead to unwanted illness of stress. Bereavement, divorce, separation and unemployment are all known causes of stress.
What are the consequences of stress as a human disorder?
The result could be both physical and mental. Mentally, the sufferer experiences tiredness which is not explained by any investigation. Such individual may be going from one doctor to the other or going from one diagnostic centre to another without producing any evidence of illness. Sleep could suffer in terms of early waking, poor ability to fall asleep, and poor retention. Sleep manifesting as short sleep and frequent waking are some features of stress. Easily getting irritable or becoming a ‘short fuse’ may be noticed by the marital partner, family members or co-workers. People around stressful people are often afraid of commentaries and they describe their relationship as ‘walking on egg shell’ around person suffering from stress: this is because of the irritability of the sufferer and intolerance at this stage. Sexuality and fertility may be impaired by stress.
Stressful people do suffer from anxiety, self-isolation, avoidance, odd behavior such as shouting inappropriately, sweating in the palms, and the rest of the body. Also, untreated, stress may lead to depression and to more serious mental illness of psychosis.
Physically, stress may lead to peptic ulcer, joint and muscle pains or what may seem like arthritis, headache, diarrhea, constipation and weight loss. Appetite may change to give rise to weight gain and obesity.
Treatment for Stress:
There is a lot that you can do to deal with stress and also to prevent and treat the illness. In terms of prevention, you may need to get yourself organised to get your work scheduled in a kind of ‘to do’ list. You can then execute each item according to their importance and prioritise the work too.
Further, try and resolve conflicts at work, at home, with partners, spouses, family members and friends. Also, there are some worldly problems that you definitely cannot deal with. Stop bothering yourself about what is beyond you. Accept the fact that, some issues are outside your control. Prayer helps too. Some individuals find meditation as well as reflexology helpful. Avoid comfort eating to resolve stress.
In the meantime, try to engage in regular, structured and planned exercise. Exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety, boost mental energy, improve sleep, relax muscles and above all reduce stress as well as prevent cancers. To benefit, exercise must be regular and purposeful.
If all these fail, then, you may need the intervention of medical doctors and even specialist doctors or psychologists who are skilled in the art of dealing with stress. Hospital admissions may be called for. Medication may also be used as may be necessary. Other necessary therapeutic measures may also be used depending on the circumstances. Good luck.