The term “stress” was tailored to describe the failure of an organism to respond appropriately to any demand. However, the stress is a term often used in psychology and it covers a wide range of phenomena, from mild annoyance to radical dysfunction that may cause serious health collapse. Stress is a major health problem in the United States. As many as 75% of adult Americans report that they experience “great stress” at least once in a week. One out of three adult Americans is under the great stress more than twice in a week. Moreover, it is estimated that 75 to 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. The leading source of stress for adult Americans is job related stress, but almost all other groups of society are equally affected, from children to elderly. Stress is now quite different from a couple of decades before, as it tends to be more pervasive stemming from psychological rather than physical threats.
Causes of stress
Stress is associated with events that make one feel threatened or upset their balance in some way. For this reason, stress demands immediate reactions over which we normally have no control. When a person feels danger the body responds by fight-off reaction, by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. The purpose is to rouse the body for emergency action. When this happens the body starts beating faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and human senses become sharper. Normally, these changes are designed to make us ready to fight or flee from the danger. However, the human body can’t distinguish between physical and psychological stress. In cases of psychological stress, the defense mechanism stops being helpful and starts causing great damage to the health, mood, productivity and general quality of life.
Signs and symptoms of unmanaged stress
Too much stress causes a great number of symptoms. The symptoms normally vary from person to person but some of them are more often reported. The common symptoms include sleep disturbances, muscle tension, persistent headache, gastrointestinal disturbances and fatigue. Emotional symptoms include nervousness, anxiety, changes in eating habits and mood swings.
Major health problems caused by stress
How much stress is too much depends on an individual. Everybody has their own limit. Normally, some people may crumble at the slightest problems, while the others can cope for a long time with stressful events. A lot of factors may determine one’s ability to tolerate stress: the quality of relationships, one’s attitude towards life, one’s emotional intelligence and genetics.
The most common health problems associated with excessive unmanaged stress are: pain, heart disease, problems with gastro-intestinal tract, sleep disturbances, depression, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and skin conditions.