about stress

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Have you ever experienced having little or no interest or pleasure in carrying out normal daily activities; felt bothered by feeling down; vaguely anxious about the thought of doing something; and had difficulty in focussing on what needs doing despite the need to complete it in a timely way? These all possibly pointed to a period of stress in your life.
Stress is the name given to a condition that is characterised by a variety of signs that can vary from un-explained tiredness and lethargy, sore or tight muscles and mental signs that vary from depression to withdrawal.
It seems that a common area of our lives that can cause stress for us comes from work issues  - up to half a million people, it is thought, experience work related stress each year. Other factors can range from alcohol and drug use, moving house and unemployment.

What is it?

Stress is a feeling of being under too much pressure - this can be either mental or emotional. The feeling of stress comes from a sense of not being able to cope. This sets up the so called fright and flight mechanism where the body reacts to a situation which puts it under pressure or when danger is faced; in this situation the hormone adrenalin is released into the blood stream. This helps deal with the pressures and threats, but only in the short term. Usually the hormone levels return to normal fairly quickly but in situations where there is long term pressure and the hormone levels stay high for longer periods - it is at this point, the symptoms of stress manifest.

Stress is characterised by vague feelings of anxiousness, unaccountably tired and lethargic and a sensation of having to ‘run to catch up with yourself’, and unable to focus on the task at hand. It can also manifest itself in physical illness like stomach problems, or more seriously, high blood pressure.
There is also a mental/emotional aspect to stress. It gets in the way of sorting out the primary issue in whatever is going on, and can lead on to affecting everything you do, and how you feel, think and behave. The mental manifestations of stress can be anger, frustration, confusion and paranoid behaviour. It can also lead to depression. These more severe mental effects of stress need to be identified and dealt with by medical professionals.

Diagnosing Stress

Stress is not an illness in itself, but, if left unaddressed, can lead to stomach problems or high blood pressure, for example. From this point of view it is important to recognise and deal with it.

The NHS website has a page or section that deals exclusively with stress, anxiety and depression - http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/low-mood-stress-anxiety.aspx

As part of the first stages in diagnosing stress medical practitioners, including GP’s will use a set of questions or statements designed to score your mood or state of mind. A shortened version of this is included on the NHS site, and this can be used by members of the public to help gauge their own state of mind.
It is in other words a self assessment tool, but if you are in any doubt about what you are experiencing then it is important to use it in conjunction with advice or help from your GP. It uses questions taken from tests used by GP’s and other professionals to assess whether a patient is either anxious or depressed. It comprises 18 questions such as ‘how often have you had little interest or pleasure in doing things’ and ‘how often have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless’. Each question has a choice of answers - ‘not at all; several days; more than half the days; nearly every day’. It is designed to recommend further reading and resources to help better understand the feelings or signs/symptoms that are manifesting.
According to the results of either using the questionnaire on the NHS website or if you have visited your GP, you may be advised/referred to see someone with more expertise in anxiety, depression or stress, so that you can receive the help and guidance needed. Treatment options, such as medication, and other forms of intervention will be discussed in detail on other sections of this website.


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