Answered by Heather Morgan on Monday, June 1, 2009
"Definitely," says Reid Wilson, Ph.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the Anxiety.com Web site. "Stress-related disorders are broad and can manifest themselves in many common ailments, such as stomach problems, chronic headaches, and lower back pain." In conjunction with these conditions, people who are under stress report:
Feeling restless or keyed up, experiencing racing thoughts
Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
Muscle tension (i.e., knots in the shoulders, lower back pain)
Sleep disturbance, difficulty falling asleep
So, what's the source of stress? Mostly, the answer is worry. We all worry about money, family relationships and conflicts, work, school, our health, and many other things—that's totally normal. But by identifying the specific source of concern, you may actually be able to eliminate it. "Think about what might be on your mind," suggests Wilson. Do you have an important meeting coming up? Did you recently have a fight with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Once you've identified where the stress is coming from, you can make a concrete plan to beat it before it beats you. Suppose you have to give a big presentation at work—if you have prepared appropriately and you know your stuff, how is worrying about it going to help you? Use your nervous energy to bone up on the facts you'll need to dazzle them—and then relax. The sign of a true worrier, says Wilson, is that he or she can identify the stress but can't move on from there, or take steps to solve the problem. "More than 50 percent of the people who go to their physician complaining of common maladies actually have a stress-related disorder," notes Wilson. If symptoms persist, you may want to seek the help of a mental health professional for relaxation techniques or cognitive therapy.