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Chapter 2 - Stress Manifestation

Stress usually takes a toll on us emotionally as well as physically. Many people who have been exposed to a series of stressful situations are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders encompass an entire range of symptoms. All anxiety disorders have one thing in common and that is that the desire for the person suffering from the disorder to control his or her environment.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is thought to be inherited, although it is a common reaction to stress. There is no specific gene that has been found that causes this disorder, yet, like most psychological disorders, it is common for someone who suffers from this problem to have close relatives who also suffered. Is this genetic or a learned condition on how to react to stress?

People who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder usually cannot control their obsessive thoughts. They feel out of control most of the time and, to combat this “out of control” feeling, they go through a series of rituals, or compulsions, that help them feel that they have some control over their environment. This can be washing their hands over and over, locking and re-locking doors, or even repeated praying. The compulsions make them feel as though they are in control.

Anorexia Nervosa is similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In this case, a person, usually a young woman, will actually convince herself that she is fat and proceed to starve herself, in some cases, to death. The root of the problem is usually a desire to control something within her environment that appears to her to be out of control. Many young women exhibit symptoms of anorexia when they enter college, a stress factor because their lives have been disrupted.

General anxiety disorder is a name given to a condition where someone experiences severe anxiety but does not fall into known categories such as social anxiety disorder, where you fear social situations, anorexia, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Those with generalized anxiety disorder normally do not know that they have the condition until they wind up in the emergency room of the local hospital experiencing symptoms of what appears to be a heart attack. An anxiety attack, or panic attack, presents like a heart attack. It is usually brought on by stress, either real or imagined.

Stress usually manifests itself in anxiety and/or depression. Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anorexia. Depression manifests itself in one way - the person does not get any enjoyment out of life. If left untreated, depression can be fatal.

Each year, we hear about young people who kill themselves. Suicide among teenagers and even younger children has been somewhat of an epidemic for the past two decades. Prior to 1980, we rarely heard of a suicide in young people. Most people did not know more than one person who killed themselves. Today, most school districts can name quite a few students who killed themselves in the past two years. Most high school students can name at least two young people who they knew who killed themselves. This is tragic. Young people with their entire lives ahead of them are killing themselves due to stress. In most cases, the stress is self inflicted - the young person wants to get into a certain college and feels that they are not getting the best grades. At the age of 17, a young person feels that his or her life is over because they are just not good enough for the world. This is a tragedy.

In addition to causing mental problems, stress can also cause physical problems. It is linked to heart disease and is considered to be one of the primary causes of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. People who are under a great deal of stress often get sick with colds or flu. Stress is said to actually harm our immune system. There are some indications that stress can also be a contributory cause of certain cancers.

Although we cannot always control stressors in our life, we can learn how to effectively deal with stress so that it does not end up causing us either psychological or physical damage. We are all going to have to deal with stress in our lives so it is better to know how to react to stress in a positive way so that we can control our behavior and not allow stress to become a health threat.
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