We live highly stressful lives. Studies show that one in six adults feels stressed as soon as they wake up. It seems like we have to deal with a new problem every day. Everything from our jobs, financial situation, health, and family can represent a stressor. Not to mention all those world issues that affect us all. Therefore, it’s no wonder that all these things impact our health. Nevertheless, it would help if you clarified between short-term and long-term stressors. Specifically, short-term stressors can be beneficial in protecting you from danger or helping you overcome a difficult situation. However, long-term stressors represent a significant health concern. Why? Just look at our guide to understanding the link between stress and chronic illness.
When it comes to understanding the link between stress and chronic illness, we should talk about mental health
While many factors can affect your mental health, stress is one of the most common. From the stress at work to the stress at home, it’s easy to crack under all that pressure. Researchers haven’t yet determined why some people are more severely affected than others. However, they have identified a direct link between the two. Here are some examples of chronic mental illnesses where stress plays a major role.
No. 1 Depression
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 3.8% of the world’s population suffers from depression. This percentage is extremely concerning because depression is a very serious illness that will negatively impact your life. Now, when it comes to stress and depression, you should know that one can cause or worsen the other and the other way around. More precisely, both are responsible for disrupting your relationships, coping strategies, and routines. As a result, you’ll feel more depressed or stressed.
No. 2 Sleep disorders
Just like in the case of depression, there is a direct correlation between stress and sleep disorders. We’re not just referring to a one-time sleepless night caused by a stressful situation. We are talking about serious chronic illnesses like insomnia and sleep apnea. At the same time, these sleep disorders that don’t allow your body and mind to rest will cause even more stress. In this case, don’t make the common mistake of turning to alcohol for help because it will disrupt your sleep patterns even more. Specifically, insomnia and sleep apnea are some of the effects of alcohol on sleep.
No. 3 Alzheimer’s disease
Unfortunately, we still don’t know the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the main reason why there’s still no cure for it. Still, stress seems to play a role here as well. Specifically, some studies suggest that stress can speed up the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. On the one hand, it might cause brain lesions to develop faster. On the other hand, stress can cause depression, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Stress has negative effects on your overall health, not just your mental health
When it comes to understanding the link between stress and chronic illness, we should talk about your overall health as well. Because stress can cause a lot of harm, take a look at some of the other illnesses that are liked to stress.
No. 1 Heart disease
It should come as no surprise that stress affects your heart. After all, your body’s natural response to any stressor is an increased heart rate. But when you’re dealing with long-term stressors, this puts a lot of pressure on your heart. More precisely, it can cause blood pressure spikes and inflammation of the heart muscle. In time, this can turn into a chronic cardiovascular disease. But even more concerning than this is that stressful events can lead to heart attacks and also increase the risk of stroke.
No. 2 Chronic pain
Another common stress reaction is the tensing up of body muscles. This, in turn, can lead in time to chronic pain. Some of the most common areas affected by such chronic pain include the lower back, neck, and shoulders. Note that your brain can also be affected by this. Specifically, research shows that stress often triggers headaches. And it’s not just common headaches you should worry about, but also chronic migraines.
No. 3 Gastrointestinal issues
There’s a common misconception that stress causes ulcers. But while this is false, stress can aggravate ulcers. Unfortunately, it can also cause or aggravate other gastrointestinal issues as well. For instance, stress affects gastrointestinal motility and increases intestine sensitivity. As a result, it can cause diarrhea, constipation, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. But in more severe cases, it can also lead to inflammatory bowel conditions and irritable bowel syndrome.
No. 4 Diabetes
Research shows that stress can aggravate diabetes. On the one hand, evidence shows that it increases patients’ glucose levels. This particularly applies to type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, people often turn to unhealthy behaviors to relieve some of the stress. These include excessive alcohol consumption and unhealthy eating, which are very harmful to diabetes patients.
No. 5 Autoimmune diseases
Stress increases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases and causes flare-ups. Some autoimmune stress-related diseases are psoriasis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, research suggests that stress can aggravate AIDS and lower the blood cell counts used to fight the disease. Plus, a study published by Cambridge University Press in 2002 shows that pressure could also increase the chances of HIV turning into AIDS.
Understanding the link between stress and chronic illness can save your life. As you’ve seen, stress can increase the risk of developing various health issues, and it can also aggravate them. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to relieve some of the stress in your life. Of course, you can’t control world crises, but you can learn how to cope with other stressors. For example, you can focus on exercising more and eating healthily, as well as finding a hobby that helps you relax. All of these things will greatly improve your overall health. Meta Description: Do you know how harmful stress is to your health? Here’s a guide to understanding the link between stress and chronic illness.