Stress Illness Brochure (1)

My first “best-seller” was a brochure for patients titled “Is Stress Making You Ill?”  Clinicians in my medical group ordered thousands every year to put in examination rooms.  I found that if a patient was reading one as I entered the room, it usually turned out that stress was causing their symptoms.  The brochure often triggered discussions that helped me with diagnosis.

I am re-editing and updating it this week and will be posting the contents, one section at a time, each day this week.  Health care professionals are welcome to use it.  Mental health professionals who have established a good working relationship with medical clinicians could offer this to them, adding referral information about themselves if the clinician agrees.

Is Stress Making You Ill?

A Patient’s Guide

Everyone with a heartbeat knows about stress.  It is part of life.  Some stress is good for you; it keeps you on your toes and makes life exciting.

For some people, however, continuous or long-term stress can lead to health problems and make many physical conditions worse.  For some people, stress alone can cause symptoms that can be as severe as those caused by any other form of illness.

How Does Stress Cause Symptoms?

One way to think about it is that when you’re under pressure, your brain will react as it tries to cope.  Sometimes it does this by sending nerve signals into the body.  This might cause pain, discomfort or symptoms such as an upset stomach, headache, bowel problems or fatigue.

However, it’s not easy for people or their doctors to figure out if stress is the cause of a physical symptom.  If two people have the same symptom, one person might be suffering from a diseased organ, while the other person’s discomfort is the result of stress.

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