Chronic stress: causes, symptoms and treatment

Stress is a widespread phenomenon today. The causes that lead to the appearance of its symptoms are many, however, the way of life and culture of Western societies significantly contribute to the appearance of this condition.

There are different types of stress: acute stress, chronic stress, post-traumatic stress, etc. If you would like to learn more about the different classes of stress, you can read our article: “Types of Stress and Their Triggers”.

Chronic stress and acute stress

It is important to differentiate between acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress occurs at specific times and temporarily, in response to one or more very stressful events, and as a result, the person suffers from an anxiety disorder. Although stress can be positive in small doses, in large doses, it can affect our mental and physical health: muscle pain, headaches, exhaustion, stomach problems, tachycardia, etc.

Stress, however, can also be chronic, which is a more harmful way to experience this condition. When stress persists over timeThere is physical, emotional or mental exhaustion that affects the self-esteem and health of the affected person, even causing severe depression. Whether the person lives in a hostile wartime environment, is unable to pay mortgage debt, suffers from burnout at work, or is unable to cope with divorce, the result is devastating and has a strong impact. impact on their emotional and general well-being. -being.

the causes

Chronic stress has a special characteristic that sets it apart from other types of stress. And does the event or stressor manifest itself over and over again, i.e. the stressor is not temporary and remains unchanged over time.

For example, a student may be in a stressful situation as they approach exams and find that they have let the lesson pass. For a month, he tries to study everything he should have studied during the year, but he does not have enough time or resources to pass the subject. Once the exam period is over, this stressful event will disappear and the student will be able to better plan and manage their time for the next class. The student has experienced an acute stressful situation.

An example of chronic stress

The same does not happen with chronic stress because the stressful event happens over and over again, repeatedly over time. You may feel exhausted at work because the leadership style of his superior also causes him a difficult situation day after dayAs his boss does not take into account his potential, he constantly criticizes him and, by not giving him clear and concrete orders, causes him ambiguity and role conflict.

It can also happen that an individual is involved in mortgage debt that requires them to pay an amount that they cannot afford. The months go by and he gets more and more into debt, which causes him anxiety, despair, insomnia, severe depression and, moreover, he sees no way out. Both cases are examples of chronic stress.

As you can see the causes can be varied, however, the frequency of presenting stressors is what causes the adverse mental health consequences. However, it should be clear that sometimes it is not the stressful event itself that causes stress, but the way we interpret that event and how we deal with it.. Our beliefs and resources are of great importance. Therefore, what may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another.

Symptoms of chronic stress

The person with chronic stress, unlike the one with acute stress, is often not aware of what is happening to them because they have gotten used to this situation without having overcome it. This can cause a very bad effect known as learned impotence (click here to learn more). Learned helplessness seriously hinders seeking help and treatment.

therefore it is important to pay attention to your symptoms both physically and psychologically to be able to get out of this situation. Usually, chronic stress manifests itself in different ways:

  • Diseases of the digestive system, skin diseases and heart problems.
  • Feelings of insecurity and a feeling of helplessness learned.
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • emotional fatigue
  • Alcohol or substance abuse

These symptoms and many more they affect not only the person but also their immediate environmentOften, hinders healthy interpersonal relationships with your family or partner.

Burnout or chronic stress at work

One of the most common types of chronic stress is burnout or burnout syndrome., Which occurs in the workplace and which, in recent years, has worsened in many business sectors due to the crisis and downsizing.

The causes of burnout can be various, i they find their origin both in the expectations of employees or in their ability to face the problem, As in various factors which depend purely and exclusively on the practices of the company or the organization. For example: leadership styles, failure in selection processes or role overload.

Studies from this line of research indicate that burnout manifests itself as follows:

  • wear i emotional exhaustion: Fatigue and mental fatigue.

  • depersonalization: Negative attitudes towards business and work, for example, irritability or loss of motivation.

  • Lack of personal and professional development: Negative effect on personal self-esteem, frustrated expectations and manifestations of stress at the physiological, cognitive and behavioral level.

  • You can learn more about this subject in our article: “Burnout: how to detect it and act”

Treatment of chronic stress

Since the first research on stress, carried out by Hans Selye, in the 1950s, many experts have provided more and more knowledge about what it is, how it works and what is the best way to treat this disease. One of the most widely used theories is the demand control and social support model of Karasek and Johnson. (1986), which works particularly well with regard to stress at work.

From this model it is understood that the source of stress is the mismatch between existing demands and the person’s control to respond to these requests. In other words, what determines the onset of stress is the interaction between the person and the stressful situation. Therefore, the problem it can be attacked in two ways: Change or avoid the stressful event or, on the contrary, change the way the person perceives and deals with this situation.

Go to the psychologist to overcome stress

The best way to overcome chronic stress is obviously to eradicate the causative factor, although this is not always possible. This can be an alternative to stopping work or divorce when the problem is in our profession or in the relationship with our partner, but what about a long-term unemployed person or a member of the family without financial resources and unable to pay your debt?

These cases require professional psychological help, as this situation can cause serious problems in the future if this phenomenon is not adequately tackled. In other words, it is necessary to seek treatment and learn practical tools to deal with this negative situation. The need to see a clinical psychologist can be essential in learning to deal with the negative emotions and feelings associated with stress.

At best, a drastic change in lifestyle will suffice, such as taking care of your diet, exercising regularly, devoting time to leisure and seeking moments of relaxation. You can read more about these tips and more in our article: “10 Essential Tips to Reduce Stress.”

Leave a Comment