When a persons capacity to adapt is overwhelmed
by events, stress results. The event may be insignificant, if considered objectively. Even
favourable changes like promotion (stress of coping with increased responsibility) and
transfer (stress of adjusting in new environment) may cause stress. Response to stress,
for each individual, depends on his/ her personality.
WHAT COMMONLY CAUSES
The causes are different at different ages.
- Adolescents may get stressed due to physical changes (perceived as not proper) and
- Young adults may get stressed due to employment relationship, adjustment in marriage
with spouse/ in-laws, tiff with parents or relationship with their own children and a
struggle to achieve financial stability.
- In middle age it could be changing spousal relationships, problems with aging parents
and problems of having young adult children who do not see eye to eye or may be having
their own stressors.
- In old age, the main concern is retirement and survival, loss of physical capacity,
major personal losses, menopause and
thought of death with increasing number of deaths in close friends and relations.
HOW DO PEOPLE REACT
Like the causes, even reaction to stress may differ.
One may be either anxious, depressed or develop a physical
symptom. Some may resort to drinking or drugs; others may start an affair. Common
psychological symptoms are fear (of facing the stressor again); anger (frustration); guilt or shame (over helplessness)
Reactions to acute stress may be lack of sleep,
inability to concentrate, bad dreams etc
This is a disorder that is characterized by
re-experiencing a traumatic event, eg molestation, rape, severe burns, riots (cases kept
coming in for as long as 1 year after the communal riots in Mumbai in 92),
experiencing natural calamities (after Jan 2001 quake in India). This result in decreased
responsiveness and avoidance of events connected with original stress.
WHAT EXACTLY DO
They are generally "hyper" startle at
the slightest stimulus, thoughts intruding the activity going on, sleep problems,
nightmares, dreams about the event and hyper alertness (mom! The building is shaking
in the aftermath of an earthquake). The symptoms are aggravated by events reminding
one of the stressor event. Sometime the symptoms arise after a long time like child sexual
abuse manifesting after marriage.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
Treatment is mainly Psychotherapy. Family support matters a lot. In some instance
medicines (sedatives etc) may be used.