Published on: 11/7/18
Do you have stress addiction? As the pressures of modern day life mount, it can be hard to see the wood through the trees. Whether its exam stress, family drama or career pressure. You might be forgiven for feeling a little stressed out - and you’re not alone. Millions of Americans are suffering from constant feelings of stress with a 2017 study reporting that 63% of the population worry about the future of the country, 62% about money and 61% about work. But are we, in fact, facing stress addiction? According to experts, that could very well be the case.
Do you have a Stress Addiction?
For many, stress = success. The American Dream has taught our society that being stressed is almost mandatory in the chase of the almighty dollar.
Ever heard a colleague bragging about their lack of sleep or how they spent the whole weekend struggling to meet a deadline? This kind of wearing your stress as a badge of honor approach to life is very much a part of western societies DNA.
However, It is thought that when our stress response becomes habitual, we seek out more and more things that cause us stress, such as overworking and constantly checking our emails (which we are all guilty of), as a way of validating our associations to stress; hard work equals stress, hard work equals success, and it is thought that over time we can become addicted to this heightened emotion, especially when we subconsciously associate it with something positive.
While most of us will actively try to reduce our stress levels, it can prove to be a real challenge, especially when we are faced with highly-pressurized working environments or stressful family situations.
A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association revealed that 24% of Americans experience extreme stress on a regular basis and while stress is not always a bad thing, high-stress levels can cause severe problems with both our physical and mental health.
When we become entrenched in this way of life, high levels of stress become dangerously normal. While not yet diagnosed as an official condition, some experts are now of the opinion that our relationship with stress can be somewhat self-imposed and can lead to a so-called stress addiction.
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What is Stress Addiction?
We all know someone that claims to work better under pressure and there might be a scientific reason why --Stress is a biological process that serves as a vital tool in our ability to deal with challenging situations. The hormones adrenaline and cortisol are expelled when we feel stressed and help up leap into action. When these hormones spike, it's as a reaction to the impending dangers our body thinks is upon us, this is known as our natural ‘fight or flight’ response.
Cortisol- floods the body’s major muscles with glucose to prepare it with energy ready for action.
Adrenaline- Epinephrine, typically known as adrenaline, is a hormone that is produced when we feel strong emotions such as fear or anger. In turn, this causes an increase in heart rate, muscle strength, blood pressure, sugar metabolism and boosts our energy levels- hence, why we call it an adrenaline rush, and we feel we can get more done.
According to the stress addiction theory, the problem arises when cortisol and adrenaline remain present in our system for extended periods of time following periods of stress.
It is thought that chronic stress can cause a slow, long release of cortisol and adrenaline that will continuously pollute our bodies, that can cause problems with our hair, weight, skin, heart and digestive system.
According to Debbie Mandel, a stress management specialist and author of the book Addicted to Stress, this can also lead to an addiction that is as real as those who use drugs or smoke cigarettes.
What are the Consequences of Stress Addiction?
Prolonged levels of high stress have an effect on both our physical and mental wellbeing. According to statistics published in 2014, 77% of those surveyed reported physical health issues caused by stress while 73% reported psychological effects.
Chronic stress can cause a litany of long-term physical and mental health problems including depression, heart disease, and weight gain. When our stress response is excessively repeated, our stress levels will stay elevated for longer than is necessary and this may have potentially serious, long term effects on our health.
Symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Muscle aches,
- Digestive problems
- Cold viruses
- High blood pressure
Studies have confirmed that when we don’t learn how to keep our stress levels down, we are considerably more vulnerable to a whole host of health conditions like obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, mental health problems, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that actively encourages these kinds of addictions to stress; if you're not stressed your life is too easy. Given the nature of our society, it is no surprise that people feel compelled to push themselves to the maximum, with image and recognition being such a huge part of our culture these days.
Indeed for many of us, those pressures can often lead us to be overly critical of ourselves and pushing ourselves too hard to meet the demands placed on us. We all have friends and colleagues who always report being overworked or constantly busy - For many of them, stress equates to success by proxy and being busy means they feel more important and valued.
Beyond that, with so many uncertainties in our world, fears of the future, both immediate and long-term, they are also leading more and more people to feel stressed about the state of the world.
With almost all of us now owning a smartphone, the temptations to check emails, messages and social media are endless and unlimited. The opportunity to feed our stress addiction is always sitting there, waiting for us (unless your battery died again of course).
For others, stress can, at times, seem somewhat self-inflicted. Take this writer for example, who has a bad habit of leaving things for the last minute. How many times have I suffered stress/anxiety because of my own lack of organization? I’m sure many of you will be able to relate to that feeling of “why didn’t I do this earlier?”
While the problem with stress is probably not going away anytime soon, it is vital that our understanding of the condition develops further and with it, we find more and more ways to help reduce our stress addictions and return to a calmer, happier and healthier existence.
If you would like to find ways to deal with your potential stress addiction read our guide Stress Addiction-How to Unplug and Relax.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Endoca and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure. Endoca CBD products have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).