When Stress Becomes too Intense, Anxiety Becomes a Disorder or Lingering Sadness Becomes Depression, It's Time to Seek Help
The Center for Integrative Medicine offers classes on nutrition, meditation, yoga, art therapy, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Stress is not just a mental and emotional issue; it has real physical consequences. Most women are busy managing work, family, friends and just the pace of everyday life, which can lead to stress. Don't let it get the best of you. Just sit back, take a deep breath and read on to learn how to deal with it all.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
First, stress isn't always bad for you. Biologically, a stressor is a stimulus that activates the "fight or flight" response. "Through hormones and the central nervous system, the body prepares for the challenge," explains Radu Saveanu, MD, chair of Ohio State's Department of Psychiatry. "However, high levels of stress hormones over prolonged periods of time may increase the risk of clogged arteries, weight gain, stroke or heart attack, insulin resistance, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis and osteoporosis."
"Remember, stress can be positive or negative," Dr. Saveanu says. "Even happy situations, such as getting a promotion or getting married, can be stressful, and all stress has those similar biological underpinnings."
Stressed and Nowhere to Turn
"An over-stressed person may experience excessive anxiety, depression, irritability or hostility. Or he or she may have negative thoughts such as 'I can't deal with this,' 'This is too much' or 'I'm all alone,'" says Ken Yeager, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry.
Bigger problems arise when stress becomes too intense, anxiety becomes a disorder or lingering sadness becomes depression. "The most common psychiatric disorders associated with stress are major depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and abuse of medications or alcohol," says Dr. Yeager.
Dr. Yeager recommends seeking help if stress interferes with your daily ability to function, just as if it were a physical disease. "Talk with supportive people, so you don't feel alone with this burden," suggests Dr. Yeager. "Accept assistance from family and friends, and also consider seeking professional help."
A New Prescription
New medications in the past two decades have helped patients with emotional issues. However, there are ways to reduce or deal with stress that don't involve drugs. It sounds simple, but taking care of yourself is key.
"Eating well, sleeping well and getting regular exercise go a long way in helping deal with stress," says Ruslana Kurpita, MD, assistant clinical professor at Ohio State's Center for Integrative Medicine.
Also, many people find that acupuncture, massage, yoga, breathing exercises and herbal/nutritional methods can also help reduce stress. The Center for Integrative Medicine hosts classes on these topics on a regular basis. "Every person should find what works for them," explains Dr. Kurpita. "Blending these techniques with 'traditional' Western medicine treatments can be a powerful combination."
THE BIG 3
LOOKING TO RELIEVE A LITTLE STRESS? DON'T FORGET THE BASICS:
Ohio State researchers are discovering the precise chemical mechanisms of stress that affect our health. Knowing the interactions between the central nervous, endocrine and immune systems may lead to better treatments for stress and the health disorders it creates. Ronald Glaser, PhD, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR), and his wife, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, director of the Division of Health Psychology and a researcher at the IBMR, have published research that has shown that:
- marital stress can slow wound healing and weaken immunity
- stress hormones may amplify the progression of certain cancers
- stress can lower the effectiveness of vaccinations
- stress can re-activate the Epstein-Barr virus
- slight stress and anxiety can substantially worsen a person's allergic reaction