HOW STRESS AFFECTS AN INDIVIDUAL’S MENTAL HEALTH

How Stress Affects an Individual Mental Health

As funny as it might sound, stress is something everyone experiences. Stress is a situation that causes discomfort and distress for an individual and this can lead to some mental disorder like anxiety and depression to mention a few. Stress is or could be as a result of an exhausting work life or anything that puts high demand on an individual. Stress is a challenge or threat to the well being of an individual. Stress comes in different degrees

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Acute Stress:

This is the most common and frequent type of stress. It is usually caused by sensitive thinking. An individual has negative thoughts about situations or events that are about to occur or already occurred. It is your body’s immediate reaction to a challenge that is new to you. This type of stress isn’t a very bad thing it has actually been stated that it’s a good thing for the body as the stress gives the body and brain practice in developing the reaction to future stressful circumstances.

Episodic Acute Stress

This is the frequent occurrence of acute stress. The individuals who go through this are people who are frequently stressed out. People who are always in a rush or hurry feel pressured most of the time. They take on too many responsibilities. They are people who are short tempered.

Chronic Stress

This is when episodic stress increases and goes on for a longer time. This is a kind of stress that doesn’t go away. This can be caused by a lot of things. Chronic stress can lead to a few issues thereby affecting your health both physically and mentally. It can lead to depression which can also lead to suicide, accidents or heart disease. With Chronic Stress the way we pay attention, our memory and the way we generally deal with emotions would be negatively affected as the individual would always be in bad/foul mood.  The individual feels worried, downcast, miserable unable to concentrate or make decisions, irritated and angry.

Stress and mental health

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Individuals who experience chronic stress have a higher tendency of being depressed or anxious. Scientists found out that the earliest response to stress takes place in the brain within seconds of detecting a factor stressing the individual. When this has been detected, stress hormones would be released which principally affect areas of the brain key for memory and regulating emotions. When an individual has chronic stress it affects how the system is able to control the response to stress.

The immune system also helps to keep an individual safe during a stressful period. The immune system is activated at any time an individual is stressed. However, depending on the type of stress, a prolonged activation of the immune system can cause depression. Chronic Stress in particular means a prolonged activation of the immune system which can therefore affect how the brain functions.

  1. Post Traumatic Disorder is a mental health condition that’s caused by either by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms may include memories, bad dreams and severe fretfulness, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
  2. People who are stressed may show mild signs of anxiety, like fidgeting, biting of fingernails, tapping of feet and more. In some other people, chronic activation of stress hormones can add to severe feelings of anxiety such as racing heartbeat, nausea, sweaty palms feelings of vulnerability and a sense of impending doom. Thought patterns that lead to stress can also leave people vulnerable to intense anxiety feelings. Anxiety that persist for a long period of time; which causes people to worry excessively about situations which can therefore lead to avoidance; and cause people to have difficulty coping with everyday situations may be symptoms of Anxiety Disorders.
  • The constant presence of stress hormones in the system may change the operation of some aspects of the nervous system. More specifically, stress hormones may reduce the function of brain cells in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus (a part of the brain that is important for laying down new long-term memories) and in the frontal lobes (the part of the brain that is necessary for paying attention, filtering out irrelevant information, and using judgment to solve problems). Because of this, people who are chronically stressed may experience confusion, difficulty concentrating, trouble learning new information, and/or problems with decision-making.

How stress can be reduced

  • Identify what the cause of the stress is and have a strong will to fight it.
  • Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals, exercising on a regular, getting enough sleep.
  • Take time off treat yourself; go on a break to a new environment.
  • Talk to people who would support you and help you get problems off your mind/chest
  • Have a social life where you can chill with friends and unwind.
  • Take a break from the activity causing you stress.
  • Avoid short term anti-depressants such as pills and alcohol. This only helps for a short period of time as the aftermath causes long term problems

Written by

Damilola Tewogbade

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