Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stressed out? Part 1: Some myths and facts about stress

Stress seems to be a part of normal everyday life in today's society. It seems to be almost everywhere we turn, school, work, the road, dealing with fiances - and even the good things, such as receiving a promotion, buying a house, having a baby, getting married, graduation - these things all seem to pump up the pressure and we get, well, we get STRESSED OUT!

But what you may not know, is that you do not have to go through life feeling like you are always on the edge, about to explode from the stress you are under. It is important to understand is that all stress is not bad stress. A small amount of stress is what keeps us motivated and moving forward. But when you are constantly experiencing greater and greater amounts of pressure, and cannot escape it, it becomes a negative reaction to the stress.

But what is stress?  Stress is a normal physical reaction to a perceived threat. The problem is, many things causing stress are not truly threatening. Not physically, at least.  Remember my blog about Road Rage, entitled "Does counting to 10 really work?" In that blog, I outline the body's reaction to stress, in that case, conflict during rush hour. ( When you are under pressure, there is what is known as a "fight or flight" response. When facing  a deadline or financial trouble, you may experience the same physical sensations as if you were faced with a saber-toothed tiger.  Bessel A. van der Kolk (2006) explains the effect of stress from a biological perspective. He explains that brain structures, called the amygdalae, dictate our emotions, and they raise the alarm to the brain. This happens automatically, but what you experience as a result, is that old familiar feeling of anxiety (muscle tension, shallow breathing, increased heart rate, pounding heart, shaking, dizziness, perspiration). 

While day to day stressors are not nearly as serious as a real, serious threat to your life, the hormones involved (Cortisol, for example), trigger the same reaction.  For those with post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks can be a difficult symptom. When something reminds these individuals of the traumatic event they experienced, their body will respond the same way it did when the initial event occurred. This is why, after a person is bitten by a dog in childhood, they can become fearful anytime they encounter a dog.

So, while stress is the body's way of protecting you, and some stress can be good, excess amounts of stress can cause a multitude of problems, both emotional and physical. Long-term, repeated stress affects virtually every system in the body. Some common effects of stress can include:

* Chronic Pain
* Heart Disease
*Sleep Disorders
*Anxiety Disorders
* Gastrointestinal problems
*Infertility and Sexual Dysfunction
*Immune System problems
*Using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress

It is important to note that people respond to different stressors differently. Some are able to roll with the punches, while others fall apart at the first sign of stress.  Things that can affect your ability to handle stress are: family and social support systems and relationships, outlook on life, sense of control, and your knowledge and ability to control your emotions. Part 2 of this series, coming July 28, will outline some tips and strategies that have been shown to effectively manage stress.

This is Part 1 of a two part series entitled "Stressed Out" Part 2 will cover "Tips and Strategies for Handling Stress.

van der Kolk, B.A. (2004) Psychobiology of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Textbook of Biological Psychiatry. Wiley-Liss, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Helping Kids Get Healthy is a Family Affair

Stay tuned for tomorrow's brand new edition of Counseling Corner about ways to manage stress. In the meantime, enjoy this awesome article about helping your children get healthy from the American Psychological Association.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's just my ADHD kicking in....

Over the last several years, there has been a great deal of attention given to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, in children. This disorder is largely considered a disorder of childhood, however, if you WERE diagnosed in childhood, it is quite possible that you still have some of the symptoms or characteristics. But what many people don't know is that you can be first diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood.

Adult ADHD is frustrating and can interfere with normal, everyday functioning. And it can be treated very effectively with behavioral strategies, therapy, and/or medication (in severe cases). In many instances, ADHD has been missed in childhood, and before it was commonly known, children might have been labeled as "bad kids", lazy, class clown, day dreamer, or slacker. The fact is, ADHD can be present, and undiagnosed, in adults for many years. They learn to compensate for their difficulties, and find careers that fit their disorganized or unfocused way of life. is a nonprofit website that provides information about ADHD and outlines several Myths about Adult ADHD and provides the facts:

MYTH: ADHD is just a lack of willpower. People with ADHD are just undisciplined and lazy.
FACT: ADHD is a real problem and is a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects planning, impulse control and focus.

MYTH: All kids have trouble with attention, and they will grow out of it when they become adults.
FACT: While many children have difficulty paying attention at all times, and some have a high level of energy, one would be diagnosed with ADHD if these symptoms interfere with their successful functioning. In addition, The symptoms of ADHD can change over time, and appear very different in adults.

MYTH: People who have ADHD don't have any other mental health disorders.
FACT: Those with ADHD are 6 times more likely to have a co-occurring disorder or learning disability.

MYTH: You have to have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child to have it as an adult.
FACT: Many adults struggle for years with symptoms of ADHD that have gone undetected, unrecognized, and untreated.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adulthood are:
  • Difficulty concentrating and staying on task.
  • Becoming hyperfocused and blocking out all other stimuli.
  • Lack of organization and forgetfulness.
  • Problems controlling their emotions.
  • Restlessness, agitation or hyperactivity.
Untreated, ADHD can cause problems in everyday life, such as relationship difficulties, financial and work problems, emotional and physical concerns. People with ADHD are more likely to have auto and other types of accidents. In addition, they often neglect routine checkups and do not take care of their physical health. Finally, adults with ADHD can be disorganized and fail to take care of bills and other obligations (i.e. renewing drivers license, etc).

The good news is that there is help available.  Therapy, coaching, training in organization and planning, and/or effective medications such as Concerta, Straterra, Adderral or Ritalin, can help minimize the negative effects of ADHD on both children and adults.In addition, the following article provides self-help strategies for ADHD.

Don't forget, HELP IS AVAILABLE.  Want to know more? ASK ME!


Share |