What is toxic stress and how is it different from “normal” stress? Everyone’s life has a certain level of stress. Work demands, family responsibilities, financial stresses, and personal relationships affect all of us, eventually leading to stress from time to time. In fact, there are many types of stress, including toxic and emotional stress.
Keep in mind, however, that stress isn’t everything bad pressure. Some short-term stress can be beneficial (yes, really), giving us the energy and passion to tackle challenging projects and situations. However, prolonged intense stress can be toxic and lead to an increased risk of many health problems such as heart disease.
Toxic stress syndrome refers to stress strong enough to trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response, which spans over days, weeks, months, and even years. This kind of stress overwhelms you and leaves you feeling scared and helpless. Fortunately, there are stress management options available to help manage and deal with it.
Situations that may cause toxic stress include living in an unsafe environment or a history of abuse and/or neglect that causes intense anxiety or fear. Toxic stress is particularly harmful to children, as they have fewer coping skills to help them deal with their stress.
“Since COVID, we have learned to be more assertive in our resilience, but recognizing the signs of toxic and chronic stress is very important as a way not only to maintain good health, but also to endure relationships. Remembering a physical health baseline can help you more easily identify The time when your concentration begins to wane, and your body feels tired and exhausted. Difficulty sleeping and compromised nutrition can also be red signs of wear and tear from ongoing stress and the need to address it.”
Not all stress is toxic. Many experts divide stress into three categories – positive, tolerable, and toxic.
- positive pressure It is stress that lasts a short time and has mild effects, such as an increased heart rate and stress hormone levels. Examples of positive pressure include:
- Anxiety about new situations
- potential stress It involves a dangerous and temporary stress response, but it differs from toxic stress in that you have a healthy support system and coping tools that you know how to use. Examples of tolerable stress include:
- Serious illness
- death in the family
- toxic stress It lasts for a long period of time, without healthy relationships and stress management techniques to support and protect you. Examples of toxic stress include:
- Exposure to domestic violence
- very poor
How stress becomes toxic
To really be able to answer the question.”What is toxic stress,“It is important to discuss how stress becomes toxic in the first place. Ordinary stress can develop into toxic stress syndrome when it persists over time and without a proper support system in place.
This syndrome is incredibly harmful for young children. according to Harvard University Center for Child DevelopmentToxic stress can occur when young children go through a prolonged and repetitive experience of negative childhood while they lack support or any protective factor. For example:
- Chronic neglect
- exposure to violence
- financial distress
- emotional abuse
- sexual violence
- physical assault
- Child abuse
- Substance abuse by a caregiver
- Mental health suffers from caregiver
Signs of toxic stress
Toxic stress affects the body in many ways. Some of the symptoms of toxic stress syndrome in adults to look out for include:
- Elevated hormonal activity – cortisol raises blood pressure and over time can lead to reversible changes in inflammation and immunity. The sign of toxic stress syndrome in adults can contribute to heart disease and chronic high blood pressure.
- Physical pain, such as headaches and gastrointestinal distress – prolonged stress Associated with chronic migraine wow Ulcers.
- Sleep disturbances and nightmares – can lead to problems with attention and concentration as well as anxiety.
- social withdrawal
- Reckless and risky behavior
There are additional signs of toxic stress in children, such as:
- Rebellion and defiance
- Poor performance in school
- temper tantrums
- Aggressive behavior and fighting (especially in teens and older children)
- Cutting and self-destructive behavior (especially in teens and older children)
The negative effects of toxic stress
The negative effects of toxic stress syndrome are many. In children, it can lead to difficulty concentrating, concentrating, and learning. It may also cause problems with brain development and have potential complications with the heart and immune system. In adults, prolonged stress can contribute to chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, a weakened immune system, or mental health conditions.
Toxic stress also makes a person more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (growing). Children with a neglected or abusive home environment that leads to toxic stress are more likely to engage in an abusive relationship as adults.
“Toxic stress sends messages to our brains and bodies to stay high, alert, and stay in a fight or flight mode. It can hurt our physiology that getting stuck with excess cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. It can be hard to function, especially if You have been constantly experiencing stressful experiences for a long time in your life with risk factors as well, including a poor environment.Professional speech therapy, group therapy, and medical support are helpful methods, alone or used together, that can help instill hope, coping, and stress management. better to ensure a healthier life and improve emotional regulation.”
How to prevent stress from becoming toxic
Fortunately, there are some ways to prevent stress from developing into toxic stress syndrome. If you notice any symptoms of toxic stress syndrome in adults or children around you, or if you are experiencing any of them yourself, try the following techniques to relieve stress.
1. take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet will go a long way toward combating stress and boosting immunity.
2. Build healthy relationships. Having a good support system with positive friends and family members is arguably one of the best things you can do to combat the effects of toxic stress syndrome.
3. Focus on the things you can control. Feeling out of control contributes to stress. Instead of dwelling on stressful events, focus on the positive things in your life and take action where you can. For example, if you are concerned about money, create a savings plan to prepare for the future. If you are feeling sad or stressed about a death in the family or divorce, therapy can help you recover from your loss. If you are struggling in a relationship, count on the positive people in your life that you can trust.
When do you seek treatment?
While a little stress can be a great motivator, it’s time to seek help when stress negatively affects your life. If you notice symptoms of toxic stress in yourself, your child, or someone you love, therapy can help you find the root cause of the stress and teach skills to help mitigate the effects.
The first step could be to see your primary care doctor. They should be able to give you a recommendation for a therapist who has experience dealing with toxic stress. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you can ask a friend or family member, or search online for a recommendation.
Talkspace is an excellent resource if you are looking for an affordable, convenient and effective treatment. our Online therapy A platform that makes treatment accessible, so you can get support and coping tools to manage toxic stress syndrome. With Talkspace, you can find healthy alternatives that allow you to live a happy and peaceful life without High stress levels.
1. A guide to toxic stress. Harvard Child Development Center. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress. Accessed July 1, 2022.
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3. Mega R, Farouk Yu, Lopez P. Stress-induced gastritis. StatPearls. 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499926/. Accessed July 1, 2022.
4. Schaeffer, MS, LMFT B. What you should know about toxic stress. Nami.org. https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/What-You-Should-Know-About-Toxic-Stress. Published 2017. Accessed July 1, 2022.