Stress Disorders

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Individuals who suffer from various forms of stress disorders can suffer from crippling side effects. It can be extremely difficult to manage a normal personal and professional life in the most severe cases.

If you’ve ever suffered from stress, you can understand the emotional weight that comes with it. The overwhelming burden of stress can often bog you down, leading to further mental complications.

In reality, stress is a symptom that comes with a stress disorder. You can experience stress without having a stress disorder. Alternatively, you can suffer from a stress disorder and not even be aware of its presence.

There are actually multiple types of stress disorders, and each one can require different forms of treatment. What are stress disorders, and how are they identified placed into different groups?

What are Stress Disorders?

Stress itself is not considered a mental disorder, and many people will experience stressful situations when they are overwhelmed.

Certain stress disorders may result in symptoms like depression or anxiety disorders. It’s also possible that suffering a traumatic experience may produce stress-related symptoms that seem unrelated to the event.

Individuals experience impulses, aggression, inability to experience pleasure, insomnia, and disassociation in more severe cases. Intense stress-related issues can develop into other forms of mental illness or substance abuse known as co-occurring disorders.

Based on the DSM-5, there are three primary forms of stress.

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Three Types of Stress

During psychological treatment, three forms of stress are used to categorize multiple types of these disorders.

Acute

Acute stress is one of the most experienced forms of stress. This version is defined by recent influences that may have led to overwhelming feelings. This may include dealing with a death in the family or pressures associated with work.

In certain situations, this type of stress may be caused by a helpful or exciting experience that is met positively at first. However, individuals may become exhausted as time goes on, leading to negative mental health effects.

For example, if someone is a thrill-seeker, they experience excitement from an otherwise stressful situation. This short-lived fear for their safety causes exhilaration, but it’s only temporary and subsides after their goal is accomplished.

The effect acts like a narcotic. In large doses, habits like this may become exhausting and result in symptoms of stress, headaches, and nausea.

Episodic Acute

In other cases, individuals may experience frequent episodes of acute stress. This is caused by an overwhelming and excessive sense of doom, fear of the unknown, overall pessimism, or overwhelming situations.

Many situations manifest this type of stress, including lifestyle, habits, work, or severe abuse and trauma. This type of stress may trigger migraines, high blood pressure, chest pain and can even lead to heart disease if left untreated.

Chronic

Chronic stress happens after extended, constant battles with Anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions. When an individual sees no way out of a painful or traumatic situation, chronic stress can be triggered. Specific situations include financial burdens, dysfunctional home environments, or being trapped in an unsatisfactory occupation.

Childhood trauma or recent traumatic events may cause chronic stress. A constant battle with extremely intense situations can desolate a person’s mental health over time. When individuals suffer from chronic stress, the risk of developing stress-related disorders is extremely high.

The most common symptoms of chronic stress are depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive acts, and other mental and physical challenges.

In reality, these can be considered the underlying causes of stress disorders. Think of these different forms of stress as the stepping stones toward chronic stress disorders and other mental health challenges.

Before being diagnosed with stress and anxiety disorders, it’s important to understand the specific forms of these disorders. If left untreated, all of the previously mentioned forms of stress can lead to one or more of the following mental health scenarios.

Specific Types of Stress Disorders

Stress actually leads to two specific types of disorders, labeled as stress and anxiety disorders.

Stress Disorders

These are the five most common stress-related disorders.

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder includes the inability to express emotional or physical attachment to other people. This may be present in children who display disinterest in physical or emotional soothing and comforting. The culprit of this disorder in children is neglect and lack of proper caregiving, leading to challenges in developing relationships. Adults may experience an increase in symptoms that stop them from forming emotional bonds. This may potentially lead to other mental disorders.

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder

Individuals suffering from this specific disorder will engage in behavior considered to be socially unsatisfactory. This includes lude or inappropriate behavior, sharing intimate information, or developing a close, physical familiarity or sexual relationship with strangers.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This is one of the most common types of stress disorder. Individuals who suffer from PTSD experience an incredibly severe traumatic event that leaves a lasting impression on their mental health. Symptoms may begin subtly but will evolve into recurring nightmares or flashbacks.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder, also known as episodic acute distress disorder, is very similar to PTSD. However, it doesn’t take an extended period of time to develop in the way PTSD does. Intense side-effects begin quickly, sometimes in a matter of days.

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder presents itself with symptoms that have an identifiable cause. This means situations like work issues, relocating to a new place, extreme lifestyle changes, or shifts in education will trigger this disorder. However, this type of stress disorder is short-term, and normally individuals become comfortable with these changes over time.

Stress also leads to the following anxiety disorders.

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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are similar to stress disorders. Stressful feelings are often a product of Anxiety associated with a traumatic event, extreme fear, or obsessive thoughts. There are six common forms of anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety

This includes a fear of the future, stress over changes in schedule, feeling incomplete, and other symptoms. Chaos or disorder has physical consequences like fatigue, insomnia, elevated heart rate, trouble focusing, muscle tension, and intense worry.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an intense fear that may be hard to overcome and extremely painful to experience. Individuals who suffer from agoraphobia are afraid of being alone outside. If this is left untreated, individuals may develop an illogical fear of leaving their residence or remaining alone.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is outlined as a constant, recurring feeling of extreme stress, anxiety, or worry. Normally panic disorder is associated with violent anxiety attacks and intense emotions that involve stress and fear.

Phobia

A phobia covers a generalized list of different mental health disorders. These include the intense fear of items, people, locations, or things. Some of these fears include flying, clowns, spiders, personal interaction, small spaces, elevators, escalators, and other situations.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is also known as social phobia and is a common form of anxiety disorder. Individuals with this form of anxiety disorder have a fear of public speaking, remaining in large crowds, or having any reservations toward social exchanges. The fear of eating or drinking in public may also be present as well.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

This form of anxiety disorder may include the extreme fear of being separated from family or other loved ones. When these important people are absent, there is an irrational fear of them being harmed.

One of the most difficult aspects of managing and treating stress disorders is having the ability to identify them. Several underlying causes exist that trigger these disorders.

Underlying Causes of Stress Disorders

The following list contains some of the more common underlying causes of stress disorders.

Health Issues

If someone receives alarming news regarding their health, this may trigger events that lead to stress and anxiety disorders. Immediate and personal feelings trigger powerful emotions that lead to significant challenges.

Medications

Many prescription and non-prescription substances can manifest anxiety symptoms. The active ingredients in some of these medications can lead to feelings of uneasiness or worse. This can set off a cascading flurry of thoughts in your mind and reactions in your body that trigger anxiety.

Caffeine

Individuals that are overly reliant on coffee can experience anxiety related to this substance. Working on cutting down your caffeine intake may reduce the chances of developing challenges.

Negative Thinking

Your body is controlled by the mind, which is true of anxiety. When you’re upset or frustrated, words can trigger physical and mental side-effects of anxiety that lead to disorders.

Conflict

Any relationship issues such as arguments, disagreements, infidelity, and other challenges can trigger or further complicate anxiety or stress.

Stress

Daily stresses like traffic jams or work-related issues will cause anyone anxiety. Long-term or chronic stress will lead to longer bouts of anxiety and a progression in symptoms, leading to disorders.

Public Events or Performance

Public speaking or even talking in front of your boss or a small group (two, three, etc.) is a common trigger for anxiety.

When individuals are aware of these underlying causes, it’s possible to identify and diagnose stress or anxiety disorder before they become too severe. There are several ways mental health professionals diagnose these disorders.

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Diagnosing Stress and Anxiety Disorders

Once the awareness of the symptoms mentioned above is realized, mental health professionals may conduct assessments and tests leading to the identification of a disorder.

Diagnosing these disorders normally begins with a series of questions, followed by more in-depth talk therapy. An exam may also be conducted to identify accompanying physical symptoms associated with each disorder.

Mental health professionals may ask clients to begin and maintain a journal in some cases. This can help them identify the presence of one or many chronic mental health ailments.

Once the diagnosis is reached, clients may begin crafting a personalized treatment plan to begin healing. The following section highlights potential treatment options during inpatient or outpatient programs.

Treatment for Stress and Anxiety Disorders

Different forms of treatment exist for stress and anxiety disorders, which include medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, or a combination of both. Certain medications effective in battling these disorders include:

  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Antianxiety (benzodiazepines or healthier alternatives)

Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs include regular meetings with mental health professionals to engage in talk therapy. Different versions of cognitive-behavioral therapy are also extremely effective.

Trauma-informed treatment models are also popular for battling panic and stress disorders. At the root of these models of treatment, the focus moves from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?”

Addressing traumas associated with both disorder types are the building blocks to long-term recovery.

Long-term Recovery from Panic and Stress Disorders

At Icarus Behavioral Health, we believe in taking the correct and most effective approach from the beginning. Evidence-based treatment with a holistic twist promotes a scientific, positive, and natural environment that leads to long-term recovery.

If you have any questions regarding our treatment or would like to begin the enrollment process, please contact one of our admissions specialists. We’d love to show you how we can help you start a journey towards a fulfilling lifestyle and complete mental wellness!