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Different Ways Stress Might Present Itself

“Your mindset matters. It affects everything—from the business and investment decisions you make, to the way you raise your children, to your stress levels and overall well-being.”

Peter Diamandis

Stress manifests in diverse ways

Stress will present itself in many ways ranging from physical symptoms to intense emotional and psychological distress. Stress can be healthy, if well managed, or can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues. In this article, we’ll explore the various ways stress can show up and the impact this can have on us. Firstly, let’s look at the most common stressors individuals experience in their lives and pinpoint what stress is.

Stress is the body’s response to unexpected challenges, pressure at varying levels, and in more extreme cases to a threatening situation. Stress is the state of tension and anxiety we experience when we feel we’re not in control of a problem or a particular outcome. An impending work deadline, being stuck in traffic/a cancelled flight or unexpectedly having to take on a colleague’s workload for a few days are all examples which easily spring to mind. Everyday stress is quite normal in moderation and doesn’t cause long-term damage to the body. 

Eustress (or positive stress)

Unlike chronic stress and acute stress disorder (ASD), eustress is considered healthy and essential to a fulfilling and vibrant life. As we’ve touched on, moderate stress can be good for the body. Eustress is typically short term and feels exciting. It can occur due to a welcome change in circumstances, or for those fortunate enough to be spending most of their working day performing enjoyable tasks (even if there’s a spike of anxiety or temporary pressure). Most individuals will experience eustress (the opposite of distress) when going on a date, starting a dream job, or moving to a desired location. Here are some examples of situations which may lead to eustress:

  • Embarking on a new romantic relationship or getting married
  • Planning an exciting trip/holiday
  • Passing an exam or landing a desired job
  • Career advancement such as a promotion or a bonus
  • Intense creativity or artistic projects
  • Moving home or relocating
  • Taking up a new fitness regime or sport such as running or martial arts
  • Enjoying an active social life
  • Birth of a child
  • Introducing a new pet to the family such as a puppy

At Addcounsel, we are very familiar with the two types of stress most identified by health professionals and mental health clinicians. Let’s look:

Acute Stress

Acute stress disorder (ASD) usually occurs within a month of a distressing event such as a natural disaster, war, a car crash, or an assault. It’s a short-term mental health condition which can be treated, usually through talking therapy. ASD has similar symptoms to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of acute stress disorder include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Intense fear and anxiety
  • Feeling numb
  • Apathy
  • Extreme anxiety, sometimes manifesting as intense panic attacks

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is persistent, prolonged, and can lead to a growing sense of overwhelm and feeling burdened by life. Chronic stress can be caused by several factors such as feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship, having to overlook complicated family matters (stress of sustaining family finances) and/or having to cope with a highly emotionally charged and demanding position with unacceptable levels of responsibility over a sustained period (think CEO, medical doctor, or football manager). Unlike acute stress, chronic stress leads to all manner of physical health problems such as inflammation and high blood pressure. Chronic stress will require assistance from a medical professional such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist; the patient will likely be advised to change their lifestyle, perhaps take time out from work, re-evaluate professional and personal goals, and in some cases, medication will be prescribed. Symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Apathy
  • Compromised sexual function
  • Muscle tension/pain
  • Impaired/poor quality sleep
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Excessive anger
  • Diminished rational and/or critical thinking (judgement is compromised because of long-term chronic stress)

Physical symptoms of excessive stress

Prolonged chronic stress has been associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, insomnia, and various mood disorders. American Psychological Association states on the impact of chronic stress on the nervous system: “The central nervous system is particularly important in triggering stress responses, as it regulates the autonomic nervous system and plays a central role in interpreting contexts as potentially threatening.” The authors continue: “Chronic stress, experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time, can result in a long-term drain on the body. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes a wear-and-tear on the body. It’s not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic.” Physical symptoms of long-term stress include:

  • Persistent tiredness and low energy
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred visionand/or sore eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • Chest pains
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing problems
  • A change in appetite (usually eating less)
  • A loss of sexual activity and/or a desire to be physically intimate
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headaches and migraine
  • Clenched jaw and clammy hands
  • A marked increase in alcohol/drug use

Burnout (chronic workplace stress)

Burnout, recognised as work related stress by medical doctors in England, is closely associated with long-term chronic stress. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion brought on by working in a highly stressful (and often dysfunctional) environment. While individuals often report burning out due to being in a long-term caring role, for instance, the actual diagnosis for burnout is clearly stated in ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics: “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

The impact of stress on addiction

At Addcounsel, we recognise that chronic stress alone isn’t the cause of addiction, however it can play a part in an individual seeking emotional and psychological relief. There’s always a risk that an individual might misuse a substance which has an addictive property to ease their emotional distress, especially if that person has a history of addiction in their family, or has had substance misuse issues in the past.

Ultra-high-net-worth individuals experiencing acute stress disorder (ASD), or chronic stress have often found themselves self-medicating with alcohol and/or mind- and mood-altering drugs simply to find temporary relief. While some may find short-term solace without developing a dependency, others will succumb to an addiction. National Library of Medicine (USA) writes: “Drug addiction is a chronic neuropsychiatric disorder that escalates from an initial exposure to drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, cannabis, or heroin, to compulsive drug-seeking and intake, reduced ability to inhibit craving-induced behaviors, and repeated cycles of abstinence and relapse. It is well-known that chronic changes in the brain’s reward system play an important role in the neurobiology of addiction. Notably, environmental factors such as acute or chronic stress affect this system, and increase the risk for drug consumption and relapse.”

Those working in high-powered roles and emotionally charged stressful environments may find temporary relief from drinking more than usual, using recreational drugs such as cocaine, or relying on strong painkillers, or opioids (even manipulating medical doctors for prescriptions). Typically, a client seeking treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, or gambling addiction will present with a history of long-term stress (especially in the months leading up to seeking treatment).

Here are a few things to consider concerning the relationship between chronic stress and addiction:

  • As a person abuses a drug such as cocaine or codeine, they’re more likely to develop a dependency if they’ve untreated chronic stress
  • An individual with undiagnosed chronic stress is more susceptible to seek ways to medicate or numb out to find relief
  • There’s a higher risk of relapse for someone with a dual diagnosis of addiction and chronic stress if they fail to implement the strategies suggested to treat the chronic stress(again, chronic stress alone doesn’t cause addiction, but it can accelerate it and/or increase the chances of relapse)

Contact us today

Our experts will assess any factors that might have caused your burnout to develop and will leverage the world’s most extensive menu of burnout treatment services to help you get back to your old self, and create a robust aftercare programme to support re-integration into your family and lifestyle. Recovery treatment takes place in a luxury intimate, one-to-one setting in London—no groups, no other patients. Your comfort, safety and privacy are our priority.

Contact us today to start your recovery journey from the comfort and anonymity of our discreet, luxury rehabilitation accommodations in Mayfair, Chelsea, Knightsbridge or Notting Hill, London.

When you check in to our private and discreet clinics, you’ll be embarking upon a personalised burnout treatment programme tailored to your individual needs. We offer luxury private accommodation for the duration of your stay, with 24/7 access to a team of world-class experts headed by one of the UK’s leading psychiatrists.

Our integrative team is made up of a group of dedicated psychologists, physiatrists, therapists, and nutritionists who are all here to help you on your journey to burnout recovery. We combine our team’s expertise to provide a multidisciplinary treatment approach, fusing therapy, medication, and alternative treatment to improve both your physical and mental health.

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