Stress And Illness–Part 1

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Stress And Illness-Part 1

The relationship between stress and physical illness is very complex. Many physical problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, intestinal problems, and heart disease are either partially caused by, or aggravated by, high degrees of stress.

Many other illnesses such as diabetes, certain auto-immune disorders, and possibly even some forms of cancer may be caused by stress to some degree, in some individuals, even though we lack the scientific evidence to prove this convincingly.

This week, I’m going to focus on three specific aspects of the relationship between stress and illness:

1)    Physical symptoms or health problems which develop within us;

2)    Physical symptoms or health problems which develop in others we care about;

3)    Concerns about develop physical symptoms or health problem which haven’t yet occurred.

Health Problems Within Us

Today, I want to address the first of these three types of relationships between stress and illness—health problems within us.  However, I’m not going to do this in the way most experts discuss this relationship.  I’m not going to say anything more about how stress can make us sick.  Rather, I’m going to talk about how sickness of any kind can often be a major source of additional stress in our lives.

When we are sick, we can become angry, irritable, depressed, or even hostile. We also may be forced to have contact with doctors, hospitals, needles, tests, and other stressful aspects of the health care system. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, and humiliation are also very common, as are concerns about finances, pain, recovery, abandonment, loneliness, disability and even death.

There are also several common internal thought patterns and behavior patterns which common arise when we become sick and which can further increase our levels of stress.  

These include thoughts such as: 

-“This illness is really bad.”

-“I may never get better.”

-“Being sick is a sign of weakness.”

-“There’s nothing that can be done…it’s hopeless.”

And behavior patterns such as: 

-Failing to seek appropriate help.

-Blaming yourself or others.

-Not taking care of your body

-Failing to deal with problems creatively. 

Obviously, there are many other aspects to how illness can cause us to become stressed, but we don’t have time to cover them all here.  Come back on Wednesday of this week when I will discuss the second part of how illness can cause us to become stressed—namely when illness occurs in other people we care about. 

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