A lot of us can get stressed once in a while. Perhaps there are personal issues that are getting you down, or your work life has become that extra bit busier. But do some people thrive under pressure? Can you be addicted to stress?
Can You Be Addicted to Stress?
So, can you be addicted to stress? Well, technically speaking, addiction to stress in itself isn’t a formal diagnosis. However, chemically speaking, our bodies can, in fact, become dependent on cortisol and adrenaline to help us deal with a situation. This means we get more used to it, and, therefore, subconsciously create it.
It may sound counterproductive and self-sabotaging that you linger in a cycle of stress when all you want is to get away from it. However, stress is a physiological response that helps warn and prepare us for threats. This is when our body begins to secrete adrenaline and cortisol. These can make us feel that our hearts are racing. We may feel breathless, panicky, weak, shaky, or dizzy. This is the adrenaline and cortisol at work – and it can be frightening. However, it’s possible for some people to feel as though they thrive in situations where their stress is heightened.
Stress and mental health come hand in hand, so here is what to look out for.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress Addiction
Looking out for and documenting your signs and symptoms can help identify the issue and allow you to look at the bigger picture. In order to know better, there are some self-assessment questions for you to consider. Here are some of the stress addiction symptoms that you should first be looking out for:
- A lack of concentration. You may feel that your mind is spiralling and, therefore, cannot commit to or finish the tasks required of you.
- The need to have an order. This may be in a personal or professional sense. You may feel that you have to have things in order otherwise, everything else may go wrong.
- Tiredness and mental fatigue. This includes feeling drained, brain fog, generally mentally exhausted, unable to do what you like, and withdrawn.
- A feeling that you can’t (or won’t) turn off. You may feel guilty for relaxing or simply be unable to relax.
- Impulsive thoughts. Rushing into decisions, or trying to sort things out in order to clear your mind quickly.
- Physically irritated. This may be being unable to sit still, feeling unsettled, pains or sensations in the chest, or even palpitations.
If you’re unsure, here are some further questions to ask yourself:
- Are you feeling perpetually burned out and overwhelmed?
- Do you go looking for and thinking about trouble before it has happened?
- Do you ever truly feel like you can turn your mind off?
It is important to note that numerous other conditions could align with the above. For example, ADHD or OCD could also have the same traits as lack of concentration, burnout, and anxiety. Therefore, chatting to your GP about other potential causes is always important. Ultimately, each journey is valid; stress addiction can exacerbate pre-existing conditions.
The Impact of Stress Addiction on Mental and Physical Health
Stress can create numerous problems within the body. Too much adrenaline and cortisol can create inflammation in the body. This can ultimately lead to pain, autoimmune disorders, and sometimes even cancer. It can also affect your mental health, leading to depression, anxiety disorders, or other behavioural disorders. Chronic stress plays havoc on our bodies, and perhaps in ways we may not even know. Therefore, it is important to be able to identify how you feel, in order to work on how to fix it.
Some of the physical consequences of stress on the body are:
- Low energy
- Diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and palpitations
- Restlessness or restless leg syndrome
Furthermore, prolonged stress can push individuals towards unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as the misuse of alcohol or drugs. Seeking temporary relief from overwhelming emotions or physical symptoms, some may turn to substances as a way to self-medicate.
Over time, this can develop into a substance dependency or alcohol addiction, further complicating an individual’s health and well-being. This vicious cycle of stress and substance use can become deeply ingrained, making it crucial to address both the root causes of stress and any emerging dependencies early on. Recognising the link between stress and substance abuse can be a step towards holistic health and recovery.
Factors Contributing to Stress Addiction
Dealing with chronic stress is not an easy task. Furthermore, there are potential factors that may create a worsening situation. However, the factors that may create a stress addiction include societal influences, such as what is expected of us in society, and within our work life. Cultural influences may include pressures within your family related to religion, politics or ethics. Some people are more prone to stress addiction, and these are for numerous reasons.
People who have pre-existing issues such as GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Eating disorders, Schizophrenia, trauma and more, may feel that they are more prone to stress. Lingering symptoms of stress that do not go away could create an inner spiral and, therefore, make you feel helpless and worthless. Stress addiction treatment is the best way to overcome the feelings.
How to Build Healthy Stress Management Habits
So how to fix it? Learning to understand your triggers and learning to appreciate why you may be addicted to stress comes with some self-thought and learning. Delve deep within your mind to identify what makes you feel this way, and how you can overcome it.
Every individual is different and, therefore, must look at different aspects of their life. However, being able to manage stress is an achievable task. It may take some work, but adapting new tips into your daily routine can certainly help. We call these stress management techniques, and some are proven to aid.
- Mindfulness is essentially learning to live only in the present moment. This means only focusing on the now, and not thinking about the future. This can take some time to practise. Meditation can also help.
- Relaxation exercises. Yoga and Tai Chi have been renowned for many years to help overcome stress addiction. They work to slow the body down and build inner strength. Even a nice stroll can help the mind!
- Lifestyle changes. Coping with chronic stress means that you may have to adapt your lifestyle. Eating healthy, wholesome foods, and cutting out on too much-refined sugar, alcohol, and tobacco is a great idea. Try to eat balanced meals, and aim to include a little extra fun in your life with the people you love.
- Seek professional help. There’s no shame in doing so. If you feel as though you’re struggling to cope, seeking support could really help you to build healthier coping mechanisms.