Friday, February 24, 2006

Chronic Stress Kills

Stress itself causes medical problems and complicates existing medical problems. It has been known for a long time that stress, particularly chronic stress, results in constricted blood vessels, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate, all of which put more demand on the heart and can tip the scales toward death.

Chronic stress can also lead to self-medicating with licit and illicit drugs in an attempt to get some relief. Those drugs can lead to death in and of themselves in self-medicators. As well, some of the drugs these individuals turn to can compound and worsen the physiologic picture painted above of constricted blood vessels, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, hastening death.

Chronic stress can also lead to depression. Depressed individuals tend to exercise less and take less care of themselves. These things, too, can contribute to a hastened death. Also, if the depression deepens enough it can contribute to death by suicide.

Chronic stress must be faced and dealt with. Early on it may be sufficient to “take a breather”, take a vacation, to make a change in your life to relieve/escape the stressor. As the chronic stress becomes more intense and problematic, you might need the help of a professional (e.g. a counselor or psych professional) to recognize and deal with your stressors (and possibly the dysfunctional ways you are dealing with the stress). The first step is recognizing and accepting that you have a problem and seeking the help. It could be a matter of life or death.

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