Q. What are the symptoms of stress and anxiety?
A. Symptoms vary but may include fatigue, low mood, anxious feelings, panic, isolation, irritability, racing thoughts, pounding heart, and changes in appetite. These symptoms can be life altering and may diminish your quality of life and your ability to enjoy your interests. Stress and anxiety may also make you feel overwhelmed or incapable of making clear decisions. These conditions may also result in the inability to concentrate. Many individuals with extreme stress and anxiety procrastinate and are unable to complete even the smallest of tasks or projects. Other symptoms may also occur and vary from person to person. An individualized evaluation done by a stress and anxiety specialist will help identify your specific symptoms. Many people ask the difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is not considered to be a clinical or mental health disorder but rather a condition or state of being. However, anxiety can be diagnosed as a clinical/mental health disorder and can run in families and be attributed partially to genetics. Both conditions are treatable with high success rates when a professional who specializes in stress and anxiety is involved. This specialist is trained in teaching you the necessary coping skills to manage your symptoms.
Q. How does stress affect my body?
A. Studies show that up to 75 percent of physician visits are related to stress. Stress affects everyone in different ways. It can cause headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, high blood pressure, higher risk for heart problems, increased blood sugar levels, fertility and sex drive problems. Physical symptoms can range from mild to extreme. For example, stress can cause a range of symptoms from minor headaches to migraines, or mild stomach aches to ulcers. Stress weakens your immune system and may pre-dispose you to more frequent flu or cold episodes. Over an extended period of time, stress can diminish your ability to fight other types of infections or medical conditions you may be at risk for due to genetics. A primary stress symptom is fatigue. Fatigue can create a variety of issues for your body and your mind. It also suppresses your immune system, and may make concentration very difficult. In some cases, extended fatigue may result in various levels of confusion or memory problems. Fatigue can also cause body and joint aches. An estimated 18 million people in this country suffer from some type of sexual dysfunction. This may also be attributed to fatigue and other stress factors. Stress may lead to diminished interest in many activities including sex.
Q. What are the most effective treatments to manage stress and anxiety?
A. Working with a professional who specializes in stress and anxiety has been shown to be very effective in lowering both stress and anxiety. A trained stress and anxiety specialist will likely use what is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This approach teaches you to change your faulty or anxiety producing thoughts, while offering behavioral training in relaxation, meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, or physical exercise. Negative thinking has been extensively studied and identified as a primary cause for stress and anxiety. You can learn to identify faulty, frightening or irrational thoughts so they can be changed or re-arranged to lower your stress and anxiety reactions. Medications are also available and work best in partnership with Cognitive Behavioral Therapies. Stress is sometimes a choice. In other words, how you view the problem may be the problem. Both stress and anxiety are raised when your thinking is irrational and/or negative, and lowered when your thinking is more rational and positive. Self-help books and other reading materials may also be helpful for you to re-train your brain, and to change self-defeating behavioral habits. Managing your stress and anxiety will bring relief and restore your quality of life.