About This Condition
The popular idea of stress in relation to human health is often described as an unpleasant mental or emotional experience, as when people say they are “stressed out.” This expression relates primarily to the idea of prolonged or sudden and intense stress, which can have unpleasant effects on the body, impairing the ability to function, and even harming health.1,2,3 However, the biological concept of stress is much more broadly defined as any challenge (physical or psychological) that requires an organism to adapt in a healthy manner. In other words, responses to stress can sometimes be of benefit when the organism is strengthened by the experience. The discussion below focuses on reducing the effects of excessive, unwanted stress.
Symptoms may include anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, stomach problems, sweating, racing heart, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, and irritability. Many health problems have been associated with various kinds of sudden or long-term stress, including alcohol abuse,4asthma,5chronic fatigue,6,7erectile dysfunction and male infertility,8fibromyalgia,9 headaches,10heart disease,11,12,13high blood pressure,14,15immune system dysfunction,16,17,18indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome,19 mood disorders such as anxiety and depression,20,21peptic ulcers,22pregnancy complications,23,24,25rheumatoid arthritis,26 skin diseases,27 impaired wound healing,28 and others.29,30,31,32,33,34 Problems with recovery from surgery and impaired workplace performance are also associated with excessive stress.35,36,37,38
Medical management of stress includes teaching people how to avoid or cope with stressful situations and encouraging a healthful diet, good exercise habits, and adequate sleep. Those unable to find relief on their own might benefit from professional counseling.