Futures Recovery

Women and Stress: How It Impacts the Body and Mind

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Stress is something that is a normal part of life. At times, stress can help us rise to the occasion and succeed. Other times, stress can derail us from successfully accomplishing tasks. However, for many, stress is ongoing and doesn’t let up. When stress is continual and at high levels, the consequences can wreak havoc on the body, mind, and spirit. 

For many women and men across the globe, stress is at all-time highs. In the United States, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 75% of adults experienced physical ailments from stress. 

The APA reports, “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”

Each year the APA conducts the Stress in America™survey. In 2020, the APA report showed significant increases in stress due to COVID-19. This increase in stress was found across all groups but particularly significant in Generation Z teens (13-17 years old) and Generation Z adults (18-23 years old). The most impacted? Females in the age range 18-23 years of age range. 

These groups facing the most significant stress, are the most at risk for serious consequences of stress. COVID-19 has brought new uncertainty, worry, and fear to all thereby increasing stress—particularly for these vulnerable age groups. 

So what’s causing all of this stress? The 2020 Stress in America™ Survey reports the following to be the leading causes of stress in the United States:

  • Future of the nation (77% of adults report being worried about)
  • Amount of uncertainty in the nation (65% of adults report being concerned about)
  • Number of issues facing individuals personally and as a nation (60% of adults report this as a cause of stress)

In addition to these concerns, the following also are contributing to the unprecedented levels of stress for Americans. Concerns about:

  • Healthcare
  • Mass shootings
  • Climate change
  • Suicide rates increasing
  • Immigration
  • Widespread sexual harassment and attacks
  • Opioid epidemic

Add to that the daily responsibilities of work, home life, children, finances, and supporting family and friends going through tough times and it’s no wonder we are more stressed-out than ever before. 

When it comes to women and stress, there are some factors unique to this group. Men and women respond to stress in different ways and experience stress from different sources than men. Let’s take a look at these differences.

According to a report from the APA on Gender and Stress the following differences were found: 

  • 28% of women report having significant amounts of stress as compared to 20% of men
  • 49% of women report significant increases in stress during the last five years as compared to 39% of men
  • 79% of women report money as a source of stress as compared to 69% of men
  • Women report more physical symptoms of stress than men such as headaches, crying, and digestive issues
  • Married women report more stress than single women; 33% and 22% respectively

There’s no doubt that women are dealing with a lot of stress. Many go from day to day, week to week, functioning with these high levels of stress, never slowing down to take a look at what’s happening, who it’s impacting them, and ways to decrease stress. 

However, it’s vital for all women (and men) to understand that ongoing, prolonged stress can cause serious health issues—both physical and mental—down the road. 

The Body and Stress

Many Americans are stressed out from money concerns, work stresses, and balancing family life with work. Add the COVID-19 pandemic and there are a lot of stressed-out people just hanging on. 

Women are more likely than men to experience both physical and mental issues from ongoing stress. Women experience many of the following physical issues from stress: 

  • Migraines, headaches, body aches
  • Anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure and heart issues
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Sexual dysfunction or decrease in libido
  • Menstrual cycle issues and problems getting pregnant

These issues compound over time. The longer women are enduring significant stress, the more at risk they are for serious health consequences. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), women experience depression twice as much as men and are more likely to have anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

In addition to these troublesome issues, stress can also cause: 

  • Physical pain such as back issues
  • Skin issues like hives, rashes, acne
  • Weight loss
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of ability to focus
  • Being easily irritated
  • Sleep issues
  • Dependence on alcohol or drugs

When individuals are under ongoing stress most seek relief. For some, they have not developed healthy ways to cope with stress. In many of these instances, they will turn to alcohol or drugs to ‘take the edge off’. 

And it’s not uncommon. 

Who in the workplace hasn’t heard a colleague talk about heading out to happy hour after a tough day or week at work? But for some, this can lead to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol or another substance that if continued can lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD). 

When Co-Occurring Issues Develop 

When someone has anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue and they are also dependent on alcohol or another substance, this is a co-occurring disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines a co-occurring disorder or comorbidity as having two or more disorders at the same time or one after the other. 

An individual who has co-occurring disorders such as an alcohol issue and depression should seek treatment for both issues. This is essential for long-term recovery from both issues. SAMHSA reports that about 7.7 million Americans suffer from co-occurring disorders. However, only about 9% of these millions get treatment for both issues. 

How To Ease Stress 

If you are dealing with an AUD or SUD and another mental health issue such as anxiety or depression, seek treatment at a reputable addiction treatment center with expertise and experience treating co-occurring disorders. 

Many times people with co-occurring disorders and their loved ones want to know which issue came first. Did the substance use issue develop as a way to cope with anxiety? Did the depression result from alcohol abuse? Most times it can be difficult to sort this out, however, with evidence-based treatment programs for both addiction and mental health issues, progress can be made and relief can be found. 

Futures Recovery Healthcare treats co-occurring disorders using evidence-based treatment approaches and comprehensive, individualized care. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues or alcohol or substance use issues, we can help. 

Futures offers three programs for the treatment of AUD and SUD as well as a unit solely devoted to mental health care. These are Core, Orenda, and Rise, and the Mental Health Program. We understand that no two people with co-occurring disorders are alike and each will need specific program components to help them recover. 

Each of our treatment programs caters to the individual’s unique and specific needs. Our Core program is perfectly suited for those in need of co-occurring treatment looking to establish a solid foothold in sobriety. The Orenda program is for the individual who is in a high-profile or very demanding occupation who is unable to escape many of the stressors that perpetuate addiction and dysfunction. 

Our Rise program is an adventure-based, experiential therapy program. This program is well suited for those who have been in treatment before but are unable to sustain long-term sobriety. And finally, our Mental Health program is geared to those seeking inpatient treatment for depression, anxiety, or mood disorders. 

If you or a loved one want to learn more about how to get help for anxiety, depression, or an AUD or SUD, contact us today at 866-804-2098.

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