“WE ALL HAVE STRESS!”
Mental Health Institute Berlin
The term comes from English and means “to be burnt out”. A long-lasting burden and permanent stress without appropriate compensation can lead to mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. Lack of appreciation, feelings of powerlessness and thoughts of meaninglessness are central factors in its development. As a result, people suffering from burnout can no longer or hardly fulfill the demands placed on them. Burnout is often accompanied by a feeling of inner emptiness, tension, restlessness, anxiety and sleep problems. Self-esteem and joie de vivre can also suffer, and suicidal thoughts can be the result.
Those who suffer from burnout are usually unable to relax properly even at the weekend or on vacation; permanent fatigue and states of exhaustion are also common in everyday life. The result can be concentration difficulties, muscle tension and social withdrawal. Emotionally, burnout manifests itself in frustration or mild irritability. Long-term exposure to stress also increases the risk of secondary diseases such as increased blood pressure, tinnitus, chronic pain or abuse of alcohol or drugs.
In the corresponding diagnostic systems, “burnout” was not considered an illness for a long time, but rather a risk constellation for the disorders described above. Whether or not it makes sense to restrict the diagnosis to workplace-related stresses is a matter of controversial debate among experts.
The most common cause of the feeling of being “stressed”, which is very well explained biologically, is psychosocial factors. A distinction can be made between “external” stressors (triggers), such as deadlines, pressure to perform at work, constant availability, conflicts at work or in the family, lack of exercise or too little time for relaxation, and “internal” stressors, such as perfectionism, high personal expectations and the desire to please everyone all the time.
Whether certain situations or environmental stimuli trigger a stress reaction in us depends on individual previous experiences. It plays a decisive role whether stress is perceived as positively stimulating eustress or negatively destructive disstress. The duration of the stress also has an impact on the disease value.
The stress reaction is first of all a sensible reaction of our body to an environmental stimulus, which can be explained by evolutionary biology. Our ancestors were forced to be able to react at lightning speed in a dangerous situation in order to ensure their survival. In order to be able to fight or escape a threat, such as a dangerous animal, it is vital that our body can provide energy very quickly. To do this, stress hormones (such as cortisol) are released, putting the body on alert. These cause the pulse and blood pressure to rise for better circulation, the bronchial tubes to dilate for better breathing, the muscles to tense, and the pupils to dilate for sharper vision. Less vital processes, such as digestive processes, are halted in favor of increased respiratory rate and lowered body temperature. This same physical stress response occurs even though we are rarely threatened by actual danger in our daily lives, and can even persist if stress persists. Chronic stress then causes the stress hormones to be reduced only slowly or not at all. On the emotional level, stress often generates negative feelings such as inner pressure or fear of failure, as well as increased irritability or impatience.
Even positive events (e.g., an important graduation, a wedding, or the birth of a child) can generate stress and release adrenaline, for example. Our body’s stress response also ensures that our senses are sharpened, we can concentrate better and we perform better in certain situations (such as exams). Stress per se is therefore not unhealthy and a “medium level of tension” is even beneficial, since a too low stress level can even result in “boreout” (for being underchallenged, bored).
Chronic stress can have a negative impact on our health. If the stress reaction persists, our body can no longer find its way out of the state of alarm, as the stress hormones suppress our perception of pain and increase the immune defense in the short term. However, this effect only occurs for a short time. If the stress continues, the immune defense is weakened and the risk of catching a cold increases. Prolonged muscle tension can lead to neck and back pain, and digestive problems can also occur. Permanent high blood pressure can occur, and calcification of the coronary arteries and an increased risk of having a heart attack can result. Other symptoms of permanent exposure to stress include irritability, sleep disturbances, sexual aversion and headaches, such as migraines. Ultimately, physical and mental performance can decline if the body’s energy reserves are permanently strained and we are unable to regenerate. People affected by permanent stress often complain of a reduced ability to concentrate and notice an increased susceptibility to errors. There is a risk of persistent exhaustion and, as a consequence, the development of burn-out or depression. The risk of other mental illnesses such as panic attacks also increases, as does the risk of increased substance use, such as alcohol or drugs to boost performance.
The MHI Berlin offers its services to patients of all private health insurances, as well as to those paying for their own treatment. Immediate admission to the day clinic is usually possible.