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The Connection Between Stress and Mental Illness

Stress is connected to mental illness and can worsen the illness. Learn to identify the symptoms of stress so you can recover. Here are some signs of stress.

Mental illness is commonly connected to stress and anxiety. Before a person receives treatment for a mental illness, he often experiences stress due to the uncommon behavior caused by the mental illness symptoms. Symptoms can cause behavior changes that initiate feelings of guilt, shame, and depression. Understanding the connection between stress and mental illness is important but it isn’t always easy to separate the symptoms.

Stress Can Cause Mental Illness Relapse

Living with a mental illness can be frightening. It can be hard to differentiate stress from symptoms of mental illness relapse. We all experience stress differently both on a physiological level and a psychological one. Even so, some symptoms of stress are more common than others.

Common symptoms of stress:

  • A feeling of detachment. When your stress level is high your body release chemicals that make you feel detached
  • A mind that races as fast as your heart, trying to make sense of the uncomfortable feeling
  • Panic attacks. These are also a separate disorder, but stress will create the panic sometimes.
  • An unreasonable fear of a situation that was once comfortable
  • A heightened sense of fear leading to uncomfortable physical symptoms
  • Stress can impact appetite. A person often experiences a loss of appetite or an increase in appetite
  • Stress affects our level of energy in a similar way that depression does. We might feel sluggish or out of the loop. It can be difficult to pinpoint our feelings
  • Sleep is often affected by a high level of stress; insomnia or hypersomnia is common

How to Notice the Connection Between Stress and Your Mental Illness Sooner

When you practice self-care regularly, you prevent stress. Self-care also attunes you to your body and mind and how they’re reacting to your world. Paying attention to those reactions highlights your stress levels and you can notice even a small increase or decrease. But if you’re not engaging in regular self-care, the reactions to stress may increase very dramatically before you do something about it.

Self-care, in the context of mental illness and recovery from it, often involves:

  1. Working to maintain a stable sleep cycle
  2. Forming positive and healthy relationships with people
  3. Educating ourselves on our illness
  4. Accepting help when we need it
  5. Integrating physical activity into our lives on a regular basis

When living with a mental illness, our level of stress is something we need to pay close attention to. When we learn to identify the symptoms of stress, we can use those signs to our advantage by increasing self-care actions, thereby preventing mental illness relapse.

It takes time to learn about our illness and how it relates to the symptoms of stress. But learning self-care, and practicing it, is how we learn to manage our mental health by recognizing how stress impacts our mental illness.

5 thoughts on “The Connection Between Stress and Mental Illness”

  1. I never thought stress could actually lead to mental illness but my daughter is proof that it can. She describes the trauma she went through at a school as “strange, weird and scary.” She also lost both of her grandparents at the same time the horrific situation at school was at its height. She hasn’t spoken since this all happened. Lately, she will answer questions if asked in short 2-3 word responses. She has had a bunch of other physical symptoms. Her eyes started blinking a lot, her eyebrows stayed raised, she developed incontinence and she had a far off look in her eyes. She’s seen different counselors and psychiatrists who had different opinions about what she had. Her last counselor says she has been the victim of trauma induced mutism. Sometimes multiple traumatic events cause certain personality types to give way. Every time I read about a disorder it seems like she has that disorder because they share similar symptoms. I don’t believe people should be labeled as this or that because I don’t believe they always know for certain and just feel pressured to label the patient with some type of diagnosis. Time and patience, a loving household and allowing her to heal slowly has helped, but we don’t know if she’ll ever fully recover. Don’t believe in drugs for her. She doesn’t like them and I will not force her to take them.

  2. I have always known that depression runs in my family, there is a long history of it on my father’s side of he family. 7 years ago, my 13 year old daughter told me she was cutting. She was diagnosed as bipolar which resulted in her commiting suicide 3 yrs ago. Since then and during her treatment. I started having the same depression systems, anxiety and parnoria. I am still dealing with this.

  3. i used to cut my self up untill i was 30 yrs old it semed to releive stress with lots of counsling ive found other ways . now i have scares all over from it sometimes its kindof imbarresing . ilive through the parinoia that peopil are jugeing me . i sure wish i could spell better . it was a hard habit to break .

  4. I was writing a thesis and became so stressed out that I started having panic attacks. Later on those calmed down and I started having heart palpitations, only I didn’t connect either with stress at the time. I ended up undergoing a heart stress test and fortunately all was well. I wonder if things would have been different if I had paid attention to my stress symptoms.

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