Blogger Widgets Struggling Parents

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Stress is a normal part of life. In small quantities, stress is good -- it can motivate you and help you be more productive. However, too much stress, or a strong response to stress, is harmful. It can set you up for general poor health as well as specific physical or psychological illnesses like infection, heart disease, or depression. Persistent and unrelenting stress often leads to anxiety and unhealthy behaviors like overeating and abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Emotional states like grief or depression and health conditions like an overactive thyroid, low blood sugar, or heart attack can also cause stress.

Anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms, including:

Twitching or trembling
Muscle tension, headaches
Sweating
Dry mouth, difficulty swallowing
Abdominal pain (may be the only symptom of stress, especially in a child)
Sometimes other symptoms accompany anxiety:

Dizziness
Rapid or irregular heart rate
Rapid breathing
Diarrhea or frequent need to urinate
Fatigue
Irritability, including loss of your temper
Sleeping difficulties and nightmares
Decreased concentration
Sexual problems
Anxiety disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that involve excessive anxiety. They include generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social phobia.



Common Causes

Certain drugs, both recreational and medicinal, can lead to symptoms of anxiety due to either side effects or withdrawal from the drug. Such drugs include caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, cold remedies, decongestants, bronchodilators for asthma, tricyclic antidepressants, cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, ADHD medications, and thyroid medications.

A poor diet can also contribute to stress or anxiety -- for example, low levels of vitamin B-12. Performance anxiety is related to specific situations, like taking a test or making a presentation in public. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a traumatic event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.

In very rare cases, a tumor of the adrenal gland (pheochromocytoma ) may be the cause of anxiety. The symptoms are caused by an overproduction of hormones responsible for the feelings of anxiety.



Home Care

The most effective solution is to find and address the source of your stress or anxiety. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. A first step is to take an inventory of what you think might be making you "stress out":

What do you worry about most?
Is something constantly on your mind?
Does anything in particular make you sad or depressed?
Then, find someone you trust (friend, family member, neighbor, clergy) who will listen to you. Often, just talking to a friend or loved one is all that is needed to relieve anxiety. Most communities also have support groups and hotlines that can help. Social workers, psychologists, and other mental health professionals may be needed for therapy and medication.

Also, find healthy ways to cope with stress. For example:

Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. Don't overeat.
Get enough sleep.
Exercise regularly.
Limit caffeine and alcohol.
Don't use nicotine, cocaine, or other recreational drugs.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques like guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, tai chi, or meditation. Try biofeedback, using a certified professional to get you started.
Take breaks from work. Make sure to balance fun activities with your responsibilities. Spend time with people you enjoy.

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