The process of learning to control stress is life-long. Overcoming stress will not only contribute to better health, but it will also increase an individual's ability to succeed.
When to Seek Professional Help for Stress
Stress can be a factor in a variety of physical and emotional illnesses, which should be professionally treated. Many stress symptoms are mild and can be managed with over-the-counter medications (for example, aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for tension headaches; antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, or laxatives for mild stomach distress). A physician should be consulted, however, for physical symptoms that are out of the ordinary, particularly those that get worse or wake a person up at night. A mental health professional should be consulted for unmanageable acute stress or for severe anxiety or depression. Often short-term therapy can resolve stress-related emotional problems.
The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) and other assessment tools are available to help identify aspects of stress such as difficulty relaxing, nervous arousal and being agitated/irritable, and determine whether depression and/or anxiety are present as well. The DASS is available to the public online.
Considerations for Choosing a Stress-Reduction Strategy
When choosing specific strategies for treating stress, several factors should be considered.
- No single method is always successful: A combination of approaches is generally most effective.
- What works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else.
- Stress can be positive as well as negative. Appropriate and controllable stress provides interest and excitement and motivates the individual to greater achievement. A lack of stress may lead to boredom and depression.
Review Date: 10/14/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.