Amy M. Spagnola


5 Signs that Stress is the Cause of Your Mystery Illness and Chronic Pain

As someone who suffers from health anxiety, there are many ways I've seen stress and worry  manifest strange symptoms in my body and mind from dizziness to tingling to severe gastrointestinal symptoms. It's been estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor's visits are due to stress. Whether you have a diagnosis or not, there are a myriad of symptoms that can present themselves as real illness and are actually the result of high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Here are five signs that stress is the root cause of your mystery illness or chronic pain:

1.) Your Symptoms Change Frequently
One day you have a horrific migraine, the next day terrible back pain and the following week swollen glands and bouts of diarrhea. If you're plagued by a merry-go-round of different strange and seemingly unconnected symptoms, odds are you're dealing with a stress illness. In many cases, PTSD can trigger a host of uncomfortable emotional, physical and mental stress symptoms that feel like a terminal or life-threatening illness.

2.) You Get "Better" When You're Distracted or Busy or Relaxed
A person with real illness will not feel better or have reduced symptoms after a long walk with a friend or dinner at a nice restaurant. If you feel that your symptoms ebb and flow based on the day's activities or seemingly get better in different environments--i.e. on vacation symptoms improve or during a funny movie you notice no stomach discomfort or headache, then odds are you've been dealing withs serious stress illness.

3.) You Have Anxiety or Depression
Anxiety and depression make a person more prone to suffering immune impairment as well as heighten the perception of pain. If you're dealing with anxiety or depression and also a chronic illness, the cause of your sickness may be stress. Anxiety activates the fear response and can cause the fight or flight response to go into overdrive--this can produce symptoms associated with high cortisol like high blood pressure, muscle weakness, fatigue, irregular periods, frequent infections and ulcers.

4.) Emotional Events Trigger Relapse or Worsen the Condition
Does a stressful holiday season increase your IBS? Does a negative exchange with a co-worker excarebate your shoulder pain? Does a visit with your in-laws create more chest tightness? If intense incidents or draining drama makes your illness much worse, odds are it's related to stress.

5.) Research on Your Illness Invites New Symptoms
You've read that hair loss is common with people with thyroid disorders. Suddenly your hair begins to shed. You know that people with similar symptoms develop numbness and now your left leg is feeling pretty weak. You learn that night vision is problematic in people with your "condition" and now your eyes are blurry in the evening hours. If you develop sudden symptoms after reading or researching similar illnesses, you likely have a stress-induced health issue.

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