Stress can kill us. It can also make you very sick and destroy lives. A recent study shows, for example, that, with regard to myocardial infarction, its importance as a risk factor is comparable to that of smoking. And since high stress leads to poor eating and to being sedentary, it also has a negative effect on other risk factors for heart attack, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. In practice, this means that it is much riskier for heart health to live with too much stress than to smoke.
But it’s not just the heart. As we know, excessive stress is also closely associated with mental health problems. In fact, by originating in the most primitive regions of the brain, the biological reactions associated with stress reach all organs of the body, including the brain. Stressed people therefore most of the time have a variety of physical and psychological symptoms of varying magnitude, ranging from insomnia to heart attack, gastric problems, difficulty concentrating or even loss of self-confidence. self. Clinically, between 60 and 70 symptoms of stress will most often be found in people who are exhausted or on the verge of exhaustion.
A stress reaction can be very sharp, yet brief and of little consequence – when danger is narrowly avoided, for example. If one is faced with persistent or recurring difficulties, however, it can last much longer and cause significant damage to the feeling of joy in life and to health. Frequent restructuring, denigration, chronic overwork, lack of recognition, loss of decision-making autonomy, continuous pressure, frenetic pace, persistent interpersonal conflicts, the inability to do one’s job satisfactorily or still the difficulties to reconcile personal, family and professional lives are examples of these requests for adaptation – stressful -which can cause discomfort and illness in affected people. The stress experienced at work can, of course, also be added to that which comes from personal or family life. It is not uncommon for stressed people to feel stuck all over the place.
The effect of stress is comparable to that of an increase in electric current in our homes: all appliances would still work for a while, but everyone would show signs of this overheating (brighter lights, oven heats up faster, electric motor). vacuum cleaner running faster, etc.), until some people end up “jumping”. Stress has this effect in the body to some extent: everything works with a little more intensity or contraction, until fatigue becomes general and certain organs show signs of failure. The diagnosis will therefore be based on the nature of the symptoms, their quantity and their intensity.
The nature of the symptoms:
In most people, the first symptoms to appear are muscle tension, fatigue, and sleeplessness. These first signs are quickly accompanied by physical problems, either digestive, cardiovascular, immune or musculoskeletal for example. Psychological disorders will also be present, such as irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, a loss of zest for life, motivation or self-confidence. These symptoms vary greatly from one individual to another. If the stress is intense and is maintained over a long period of time, anxiety disorders such as panic, phobias or obsession will inevitably appear, as well as a range of depressive feelings.
The amount of symptoms
The majority of people with stress will experience at least 40 symptoms to varying degrees. It is therefore necessary to rethink the idea according to which any symptom for which the doctor does not find a cause would be related to stress, as well as the idea that, if an organic cause is found to the symptom, stress is not involved. The truth is that if there are more than forty symptoms and can be linked to stressful situations that persist, there is reason to believe that each is partly related to stress, even if, medically, they can be treated separately. . In cases where a symptom has appeared on its own and the person has full control over their life, stress is most likely not the cause. Biological stress reactions therefore do not lead to imaginary symptoms: they lead to disease. Real , which can even lead to death! Hence the importance of taking care of it!
Intensity of symptoms
It is quite rare that only one symptom of severe stress is found in an individual. Most of the time, several symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, back pain, tension in the neck or fatigue will increase in intensity while others, less strong, will continue to appear. Frustration, discouragement, occasional digestive problems, loss of self-confidence or the desire to run away from everything are examples of these less aggressive symptoms. The process of increasing the amount and intensity of symptoms is most often a roller-coaster ride over a period of several months, except in cases where the cause of the stress comes on suddenly. The loss of a spouse is a good example of stress that comes on suddenly.
Tools for the diagnosis of stress
The interested reader can consult the Millipede for a version of the questionnaire “Observe your symptoms of stress” published in our first book – written with Doctor Robert Beliveau. In our next article ( Assess your stress level using millipede), we will present a simple version to use for self-assessment or to help others do theirs if you are a healthcare professional. We will also see how to react in the short term if this questionnaire reveals a high level of stress and, subsequently, how to better become aware of what is behind these symptoms. We will then better see the actions to be taken in the medium term to regain a better physical and psychological balance and will become aware of what our employer could remedy if we conclude that it is in question.