The word stress comes from the Latin estringere (tighten). From this term the Anglophone stress voice, used in the physics of materials, derives and explains the resistance that a structure develops when subjected to a force or load that could produce a distortion.
In the field of biology, stress is understood as the physiological reaction of a body when it develops different defense mechanisms to face a situation that is perceived as threatening. And by extension, valid for Medicine and Psychology where stress is the way in which the body reacts to a challenge. It is important to distinguish between:
- Stressful event: challenge, threat or overload.
- The way of reacting (the real stress) that is carried out by the central nervous system, the peripheral sympathetic nervous system and the neuroendocrine system that will give rise to physiological responses. Stress is a natural and necessary response to survival, despite which it is confused with a pathology.
Causes of stress
The causes of stress, or rather its triggers, are the stressors that generate the change in homeostasis. They are classified according to different variables:
- External stimuli to the individual
- Environmental stimuli
- Perceptions of threat
- Difficulty in social relationships
- Internal stimuli
- Alteration of physiological functions
- Somatics, thoughts, cognitions and beliefs of the subject
- Frustration and blocking of interests
- People continually evaluate their environment, so some external stimuli can be magnified or minimized by their thinking strategies.
Not all people react the same when they are subjected to stressful situations. Some specialists describe different differential models of response.
- Model of predisposition to stress: some individuals are more vulnerable due to an inherited predisposition through a fragility in some organic or biochemical system.
- Resistant personality model: some people have a greater capacity for resistance that protects them from diseases related to stressors.
- Identity disorder model: certain events in life can change a person's sense of identity, which can have a negative impact on their health.
There are many symptoms associated with stress, some are temporary and others can be articulated in true diseases of a psychosomatic or psychic nature, among which anxiety pictures and even depressive pictures stand out.
The body releases hormonal substances when subjected to a stressful circumstance or situation of greater demand. This causes the brain to be alert, muscles can be stressed and heart rate increased. In a short-term situation, these reactions are favorable but if the stress is maintained, the body keeps the alert and over time puts their health at risk.
When a person suffers from chronic stress, the body remains on alert even when there is no danger. The health problems that can cause are:
- Increased blood pressure
- Endocrine disorders: changes in appetite, obesity or risk of diabetes
- Menstrual problems
- Digestive problems
- Dermatological problems such as acne or eczema
- Symptoms of pain, fatigue and joint problems
- Lack of energy, attention and concentration
Any combination of these factors can lead many people to suffer from psychic pathology:
- Stress disorders: acute or post-traumatic
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Depressive disorder
- Possible secondary addictions, since sometimes people with these difficulties go to a substance such as tobacco, alcohol and others to alleviate part of their symptoms.
How does stress influence the patient's life?
Stress does not affect all people equally. In general and in the psychic field, the appearance of anxiety pictures predominates, sometimes in the form of crises and more frequently as symptoms of generalized anxiety that are eroding the level of energy and adequacy, making light, gradual and steadily harder life .
If the stress is prolonged, depressive symptoms may appear, with greater or lesser sadness, but especially irritability and feelings of disability and hopelessness.
First of all, when dealing with stress it is vital not to downplay it, neither the affected patient nor the doctors who can visit you for any symptom.
The main thing is to attend to the patient from a comprehensive perspective that includes mental health specialists. It is not only useful for a general practitioner to prescribe a treatment and refer it to a psychologist; thus the patient neither understands nor benefits from any of these approaches.
In this sense, it is important to carry out an interdisciplinary approach where the role of psychiatrists and expert psychologists is fundamental. The psychiatrist is not a "pill dispenser" but is a specialist with medical and psychological training. Your practice should be based on listening carefully, reflecting accordingly and have a deep knowledge directed to the concrete problem of the concrete and unique person.