When stress becomes pathological

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Our consumer society is a major supplier of stress. We shouldn’t misjudge its effects. Is it pathological (a disease or medical condition) or not? There are conflicting opinions, but the effects of stress are well known.

At what point does stress become pathological? It’s difficult to say, but it can be considered pathological when it becomes chronic. Don’t get the wrong idea – we’ve all felt physical effects during a test or examination, for example. It’s the normal physiological response of the human body to a hostile environment. In these circumstances, the stress you feel can even be beneficial. It’s when the hostile environment becomes your everyday life that we start to talk about pathological stress, because we’re not designed to operate in a constant state of alert, and if we do, it will have consequences. In that situation, stress can accelerate the development of pathologies that the individual already has.

What signs do we need to take account of in the way stress shows itself? Chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, nerves, irritability or memory lapses should be treated as warning signs. No doubt your friends and family will have noticed this kind of change in you. It’s not something to take lightly. A tendency to get involved in addictive behaviours (video games, tobacco, alcohol, etc) should also be taken as a warning.

Clearly, the first step on the path back towards wellbeing is to become aware of the problem. Be guided by what you feel like doing, and the pleasures you get from life. Pay heed to any impulse to involve yourself in the things you used to love but have put aside; the impulse to be with friends and family, to spend time with them, and the impulse to get back to simple things. Meditation exercises can be a big help with this. They let you find yourself, clear your mind and be calmer. Physical activity is also a help, in the sense that it helps get rid of persistent negative thoughts, especially if you do it with friends.


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