Dr. Zatrok's blog
Dr. Zatrok's blog

Dr. Zatrok's blog

The link between long-term stress and disease

by Dr. Zsolt Zatrok

When you go to the doctor with a complaint, your doctor will do some “research”. He or she will look for measurable, visible, palpable, or “touchable”, identifiable changes until he or she finds something that seems to confirm his or her suspicions. After an accident, he will have an X-ray taken and if there is a visible fracture in the bone, he will have a diagnosis. However, many diseases do not give such clear symptoms. You will have many tests, but no abnormalities will be found: no abnormalities in the X-ray, no high values in the lab tests and no other tests. Often it’s the prolonged stress – you don’t usually think about it…the problem is that many doctors don’t either. 

The above medical view is the reason why most people see illness as some physical abnormality in their body. I know from the experience of my practice that, for example, a significant proportion of people admitted to hospital in an emergency with a suspected “heart attack” have no abnormalities detected on ECG or lab values, no abnormalities on echocardiogram, and even no abnormalities on exercise ECG scans. In other words, they have certainly not had a heart attack, but their subjective symptoms are still entirely consistent with those described in medical textbooks.

What to suspect in such a case?

The most common cause of such cases, which mimic the subjective symptoms of the disease but show no detectable abnormalities, is persistent stress.

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to something that is affecting you. Normally it is a useful process that prepares you to “fight back” and defend yourself when you are threatened. This is what you feel when you are scared of something, for example. Suddenly a large amount of hormone is released in your body and it explodes. Your body tenses up in a flash, ready to defend itself, run away, etc. When the threat is gone, the stress of the situation “evaporates” and your body returns to normal.

However, if the stress is constant and persistent, you may experience adverse effects over time. For example, prolonged stress can weaken your immune system and cause you to “fall” from one cold to another. Depression can make you feel depressed and moody, or even cause constant irritability. If stress persists, you may experience physical complaints. The symptoms can be very varied, so they can be confused with other complaints caused by other really serious illnesses, but there is no measurable difference.

The main sources of stress

A lot of things can trigger stress! Often things that are shrouded in the mists of the past, even seemingly insignificant, and are often extremely difficult to discover and decipher. Other times, there is no solution to the very obvious cause, for example, there is no legal way to escape the “terror” of an alcoholic family member.

  • relationships (couple relationships, mother-child, father-child, parent-child, etc.)
  • financial situation (financial problems, e.g. financial insecurity, stress caused by loan repayments, etc.)
  • workplace (e.g. disliked job, conflict with boss or co-workers, high expectations, pressure to conform, etc.)
  • sexual relationships (e.g., secret relationships, sexual abuse by family member or other, inappropriate partner, etc.)
  • sleep problems
  • fear of illness, death
  • life situations (unexpected death, unresolved death, etc.)
  • ability to perform normal tasks (disability due to accident, disability, etc.)

The “mental illness” trap

With medical science failing to find evidence of the existence of a “soul”, unfortunately many even doctors, especially “old-school”, older doctors, do not take complaints caused by prolonged stress seriously. They send you from one test to another for a while, and since everything is negative, after a while they get ‘bored’. They give you the ‘mental illness’ stamp and stop taking you seriously. Whenever you go in with any complaint, they prescribe an anti-anxiety drug, a mood enhancer, a sedative, a sleeping pill, without any examination. If you experience this, then get suspicious – your doctor has “given up” on looking any further and finding what is wrong with you. Of course, it is also true that the usual therapy for mental illness – take a few pills or capsules, maybe have some surgery – is NOT the answer!

Pharmaceuticals don’t eliminate the causes of stress, they just mask the symptoms!

You can’t solve situations that cause persistent stress with a pill or capsule!

For clarity, let’s look at a simple example. Suppose your dog runs into the house and pisses in the middle of the room. You solve the situation by pulling the carpet over the pile in one neat motion. Solution? No! The shit (pardon the expression) stays there.  Over time it will ruin the floor and carpet while the turd is still in place and you can smell it. The only good solution to this is to do some unpleasant work to pick it up, mop it up, clean it up. 

Your life is the same!Some drugs can improve your mood, suppress your anxiety, but that doesn’t make the problem go away! Unresolved stress “keeps gnawing at your soul”Although it may seem that you have covered it up and hidden it away with medication, it will show up somewhere in time! At first mildly, then causing increasingly severe physical symptoms.

Watch out! The symptoms caused by prolonged stress can only be reversed for a certain period of time! If you do not eliminate stress, you may reach a state where it is too late! Putting off a solution for years can lead to real physical illnesses, which will then make you sick for good.

What can be the solution to persistent stress?

If you look again at the paragraph on sources of stress, you will see that stress is caused by things that cannot be treated by conventional medicine.

You can’t solve a broken relationship with your partner with pills or even injections. No surgeon’s knife can cut out the anger, humiliation, etc. that is simmering inside you. Even the bullying boss at work “won’t take the cat”!

Managing stress is how you respond to events or situations that cause stress. The first and most important step in treatment is to identify and recognise the causes! But even if you have identified the cause, only in some cases is the solution simple. Changing jobs to get rid of a bullying boss or a teasing co-worker is not easy. But from the “grip” of a tyrannical father, an alcoholic husband, it is far less easy. Just as a bad childhood memory, a lost relative, the burden of a mortgage are things that are very difficult to deal with and resolve.

Most of the time, they don’t. Although the support of a good friend or girlfriend may be enough, it is better to seek professional help. Exploring and solving the problems of the soul can “save your life”! I mean that very seriously.

Reduce stress as much as you can! Change jobs, talk through problems with your partner, your relatives. And find a supportive psychologist to help you find your mental balance. Don’t be ashamed! It could save your life!

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