Signs of Stress in Women Can Result in Physical Illness
Primary Care Physician Warns Women on the Long-Term Effects of Stress and How to Cope
DAYTON, Ohio (July 2, 2012) – Anxiety, depression, weight gain, insomnia and fatigue are among the unwanted side effects of too much stress. According to Dr. Terez Metry of Belmont Physicians, part of Premier HealthNet, many women are victims of the physical symptoms of stress.
“Women will visit my office and complain about insomnia and fatigue, common signs of stress. Weight change is associated with stress as well, whether it’s up or down,” said Dr. Metry. “We see a lot of irritable bowel symptoms too, with discomfort of indigestion and bowel changes. A lot of women have muscular aches and pains exacerbated by lack of sleep, and some women even have memory issues because they are struggling with multiple responsibilities.”
Dr. Metry shares that stress often peaks for many women in their mid-forties, at the same time that life’s responsibilities seem to demand the most attention. “Stress really peaks when your kids are old enough that they can take care of themselves; they have their own lives and you’re still trying to control it to some extent. And you may have aging parents and at that point, if you’ve had a career, you’re hopefully progressing in it too. You are trying to keep all of those things going at the same time, so the forties are about the time when stress hits women the hardest.”
The mental and emotional side effects of stress can cause major health problems in women if left untreated. Dr. Metry shares that stress can cause chronic depression and anxiety; she says that sometimes her female patients will even come in with post-traumatic stress symptoms. “They may not be war veterans, but they have some of those panic attacks just because they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Physically too, it does suppress your immunity, so women who are experiencing high levels of stress are more prone to infections. The stress hormones are basically cortisol and adrenaline. These can raise your blood pressure and give you irregular heartbeats. If stress goes left untreated long enough, you can end up with heart disease as well.”
Dr. Metry says that one of the best things women can do to help lower stress levels is by learning how to say no. “Many women tend to put themselves last and if you never make the time for yourself, you never get to do the things that are needed to stay healthy. Say ‘no’ so that you have the time to exercise, go do some yoga, hang out with girlfriends, even talking. Make the time and make yourself a priority.” She adds, “Try to get a decent amount of sleep, eat well and don’t abuse any substances.”
Women should visit their primary care physicians regularly in order to screen for stress related illnesses. Dr. Metry suggests visiting at least every other year for a wellness check-up and bringing a list of issues or stress symptoms along. Feeling comfortable discussing symptoms with a primary care physician is important. “Don’t be embarrassed, it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart or organized. Stress is something that everyone struggles with.”
Primary care physicians play a key role in stress management, help detect symptoms of stress and recommend proper steps for addressing it. To find a Premier HealthNet primary care physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.