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Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month, Risk Factors, Connection Between Stress & Addiction

April Stress Awareness Month

Stress Awareness Month is an annual campaign that began in 1992 and has taken place every April since. Sponsored by The Health Resource Network (HRN), a non-profit health education organization, Stress Awareness Month is a national, cooperative effort to inform people about the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies, and harmful misconceptions about stress that are prevalent in our society.

Stress has long been known to increase vulnerability to substance use disorders. Many clinicians and addiction medicine specialists suggest that stress is the number one cause of relapse to drug abuse, including smoking.  Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression – even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.

Stress can change our behaviors and influence our interactions with others. And sometimes people get so used to dealing with it that it’s hard to recognize it in ourselves.

Know the Signs of Stress:

  • Physical – Headaches, sickness, indigestion
  • Mental – Irritable, inflexible, short-tempered
  • Emotional – Anxious, fearful, angry, frustrated, sad
  • Behavioral – Sleep problems, substance abuse (food, alcohol, drugs)

“Even though we’ve learned a lot about stress in the past twenty years,” says Dr. Morton C. Orman, M.D., Founder, and Director of HRN, “we’ve got a long way to go. New information is now available that could help millions of Americans eliminate their suffering.” [1]

Dr. Orman has invited leading health care organizations across the country to develop and disseminate helpful educational materials and other information about stress during the month of April. He is also encouraging stress experts and other health care leaders to conduct public forums, discussion groups, and other informative community events.

Stress Awareness Month
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures.


National Stress Awareness Month & National Stress Awareness Day USA

According to the American Institute of Stress, about 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related disorders, ranging from stomach trouble to heart disease. Job-related stress costs American businesses about $150 billion a year. [2]

A 2017 study from the American Psychological Association found the most common sources of stress reported among Americans was the “future of our nation” (63% of respondents mentioned), Money (62%), Work (61%), political climate (57%), violence/crime (51%). [3]

National Stress Awareness Day, on every first Wednesday in November — November 2 this year — is 24 hours of reinforcing the fact that you’re not doing yourself a favor by stressing about situations you can’t control.

Why is Stress Month So Important?

Stress can be debilitating, and it can cause and/or aggravate health problems. And since stress is a normal part of human existence — nobody is immune to it — it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we recognize when stress rears its ugly head. Stress Awareness Month happens each April. It’s important to learn some strategies for coping with this particular silent scourge. 

Stress Risk Factors

Common reactions to a stressful event can include:

  • Disbelief, shock, and numbness
  • Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Headaches, back pains, and stomach problems
  • Smoking, drug addiction or alcoholism

Long-term stress can prove to be more than just a mental issue. From headaches to stomach disorders to depression – even very serious issues like stroke and heart disease can come as a result of stress.

Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

About 5 percent of American adults experience vertigo, and many people notice it when they’re feeling stressed or anxious. Even though stress doesn’t directly cause vertigo, it can contribute to dysfunction of the part of your inner ear that controls balance, called the vestibular system.

Can Stress Cause High Blood Pressure?

Your body produces a surge of hormones when you’re in a stressful situation. These hormones temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. There’s no proof that stress by itself causes long-term high blood pressure.

Can Stress Cause Diarrhea?

When you are stressed over a long period, your intestines keep messing up their filtration duties. Your nervous system reacts with more inflammatory responses, which can lead to a mild diarrhea case. The most common connection between chronic stress and diarrhea is hormonal changes.

Can Stress Cause Chest Pain?

When you’re anxious, your brain sends a surge of adrenaline and cortisol through your body. These hormones immediately trigger a rapid rise in your heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, many people experience chest pain and sweating or have a hard time breathing.

Can Stress Cause a Stroke?

Stress can cause the heart to work harder, increase blood pressure, and increase sugar and fat levels in the blood. These things, in turn, can increase the risk of clots forming and traveling to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Ways to Help Manage Stress

Learning to cope with our stress and finding healthy ways to deal with these situations can go a long way in living a healthy and positive life. Sometimes the stress in our lives is not something we have the power to change. Try to:

Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month and we are taking the opportunity to highlight the impact of stress on mental health.
  • Recognize when you don’t have control, and let it go
  • Avoid getting anxious about situations that you cannot change
  • Take control of your reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control
  • Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, and personal growth, and set realistic goals to help you realize your vision

Here are some basic ideas to help you cope with stress:

  • Take care of yourself – eat healthily, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break if you feel stressed.
  • Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a family member, friend, doctor, pastor or counselor.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. These can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
  • Recognize when you need more help – know when to talk to a psychologist, social worker or counselor if things continue.

Potentially the most valuable takeaway here is knowing how to talk to others about your stress. This goes both ways, as you need to know how to discuss your problems with others as well as talk to anyone that comes to you with their issues. [4]

How Mental Stress Can Affect Physical Health

When you are placed in a stressful situation, specific stress hormones rush into your bloodstream leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. This is helpful in emergency situations, but having this “rush” for extended periods of time can be dangerous and make you susceptible to the issues mentioned previously.

Stress and Addiction

Everyone copes with stress in different ways, and some may resort to maladaptive measures of managing stress, which may include abusing drugs. Stress can increase the odds that a person will use drugs; in fact, those exposed to stress are more likely to use mind-altering substances, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns.

Drug-addicted patients who are trying to remain off drugs can often resist the cravings brought on by seeing reminders of their former drug life, NIDA-funded researcher Dr. Mary Jeanne Kreek of Rockefeller University in New York City has noted.

“For 6 months or so, they can walk past the street corner where they used to buy drugs and not succumb to their urges. But then all of a sudden they relapse,” she says. “When we ask them why they relapse, almost always they tell us something like, ‘Well, things weren’t going well at my job,’ or ‘My wife left me.’ Sometimes, the problem is as small as ‘My public assistance check was delayed,’ or ‘The traffic was too heavy.'”

Stress Awareness Month
 According to the American Institute of Stress, about 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related conditions.

Anecdotes such as these are common in the drug abuse treatment community. These anecdotes plus animal studies on this subject point toward an important role for stress in drug abuse relapse. In addition, the fact that addicts often relapse apparently in response to what most people would consider mild stressors suggests that addicts may be more sensitive than non-addicts to stress. [5]

While drugs may provide a temporary respite for stress, in the long run, drug abuse actually makes stress more pronounced and leads to a variety of physical and emotional health issues as well as behavioral and social concerns.

As the addiction treatment community begins to realize that addiction is itself a mental disorder, the relationship between substance abuse and mental disorders becomes more complicated. The greater treatment community largely lacks a proper understanding of dually diagnosed conditions, so these conditions are still treated separately, or worse–not treated or diagnosed at all. Dual diagnosis treatment centers in We Level Up Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey are some of the facilities that have professionals trained to help treat co-occurring disorders concurrently. This type of tandem treatment provides some of the best success rates.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, and while stress is unavoidable for the vast majority of Americans, there are many ways to help prevent and manage it. Get dual diagnosis treatment for individuals struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders. Call us today!

Sources:

[1] Stress Awareness Month – https://stressawarenessmonth.com/
[2] Stress Awareness – https://www.amerihealth.com/worksite_wellness/employer_toolkits/stress_awareness.html
[3] Stress In America – https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/state-nation.pdf
[4] April is Stress Awareness Month – https://www.stress.org/april-is-stress-awareness-month
[5] Studies Link Stress and Drug Addiction – National Institute on Drug Abuse