Stress 

An expert explains what stress is, the physical and mental effects of being stressed, when it becomes a problem and when to seek help.

Learn more about stress management

Transcript of Stress

My name's Alan Cohen, I've been a GP for about 25 years.

I am Primary Health Advisor for the National Institute of Mental Health.

Stress is how the body reacts to external pressures

that we perceive to be difficult, uncomfortable.

It creates both physical changes in the body,

so sweating, or worry, or frustration, or anger.

Talking to you today, stress is not a problem, it's good for me,

it makes me perform better and more effectively.

Stress becomes a problem when instead of helping me perform

it actually becomes counter-productive and I go terribly tongue-tied

and can't think of what to say. That's when it become unhelpful.

When that lasts a long time, we get chronic stress,

then people become really quite unwell.

The difficulty is know for an individual when they should seek help,

when stress has stopped being good and started being bad for them.

Stress can affect anybody, you or me.

And what's interesting is that what may be stressful for you

may not affect me very much, and vice versa.

So it's very much an individual perception,

a meeting of the individual personality with an external event.

So common causes of stress are things like pressures at work, for example,

pressures at home, pressures around money,

pressures around employment, especially nowadays.

These are all things that commonly cause symptoms of stress.

When stress becomes bad for you,

the commonest sort of feelings that one gets inside oneself

is one of either anxiety and/or depression.

You feel unable to manage things, unable to think clearly,

everything becomes an effort, you're slowed up, you can't think clearly,

as well as feeling on edge, unable to concentrate, tearful,

a whole variety of these uncomfortable emotions.

Often these are associated with physical symptoms as well.

So you might get headaches, tummy ache, back ache,

and one can describe these as being linked to the mental health problem

because of the way the body works, it doesn't separate mind and body,

We work together as a single unit.

In the same way that the emotions get disturbed,

so the way the body works gets disturbed.

As a GP, I see lots of people with a whole variety of symptoms

that they come and present to me,

some of which is psychological, some of which is physical.

It's the skill of the GP that they need to disentangle what's going on,

to work out whether the abdominal pain and the sweating

is due to an underlying physical cause like an ulcer,

or whether there's something going on at home or at work that's upsetting them.

How you identify that depends on the ability to listen to the patient,

to understand what the symptoms mean to the patient,

to listen to what their possible explanations are.

It's about good conversation between the doctor and the patient

and both being honest with the other.

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