What is the underlying cause of Stress?

What is the underlying cause of your increasing stress?

We can all recognize that there are more individuals around us today that suffer from stress, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, and ADD than ever before.  
 
People are generally lacking the ability to properly handle the stress in their lives despite the fact that we have more education, more healthcare, and more knowledge about the general causes than ever before. 
 
Why are these diagnosis becoming such an epidemic?  
 
What we see in our clinic is that many people can point back to a time in their life that they considered normal…before x, y, or z happened.  Now, they have a diagnosis of some type of anxiety disorder.  Something has changed to move them from ‘normal’ to ‘stressed’.
 
 
This is because all of these conditions have multi faceted causes: traumatic events, environmental exposures, viral infections, inflammatory cascade, diet and over stimulation. Many patients are already being treated in one or more of these causes, but most physicians do not understand that over stimulation can lead to deterioration of these patients conditions.
 
Further more, many individuals with these conditions have a need for some type of hyper stimulation, whether it be video games, constant rocking, tapping, chewing, TV, music, and even banging their heads on something.  Other individuals must always seek out or make a conflict with every interaction. They do this to increase stimulation in their life.  I am sure that you have met the individuals that you would call the “Drama Queen”, why are they that way?  For some, it is the easy answer of attention, for others it is the need for mental stimulation.
 
The need for stimulation happens chemically in the body as well.  Anxiety starts out as a cognitive thought but almost instantaneously becomes a chemical reaction in which hormones are released and the brain and entire body respond.  
 
After an event has subsided, there are inflammatory immune responses that linger on.  Substance P and Interleukin 6 are two such inflammatory immune chemicals.  They serve as normal inflammatory chemicals in the body and are meant to help us overcome foreign invaders or repair damaged tissue. When these immune substances are introduced in stressful situations, or during times of development, they lead to a chronic inflammatory response. 
 
What is interesting, is that the two of them work in tangent, as a positive feed back loop, perpetuating the emotional responses that created the chemical response in the first place. 
 
Substance P and Interleukin 6 have been shown to be elevated in individuals with PTSD and increase with severity.  An increase in Substance P creates an increase in Interleukin 6, and vice versa.  When an immune response becomes chronic the cognitive patterns become altered.  This accounts addictive behavior of stress in some individuals. 
 
The nervous system is designed to seek out stimulus.  It seeks it out stimulus to the point of even creating it.  The Interleukin 6 and Substance P cause inflammation in the brain and this causes a pain that is sometimes felt consciously as headaches, neck, and back pain, but is always perceived subconsciously.  It is this subconscious pain that creates the desire for more stimulation and causes the addictive behaviors.  
 
The nervous system deals with perceived or real pain the same way, through a process called inhibition.  To give an example, if you bump your arm really hard, the first thing you do is grab it and begin to rub it vigorously. You do this because the feeling of pain, or the perception of pain, is reduced by the stimulation of rubbing.  This works because the nerves that carry the pain signal are designed to be overridden by those of proprioception, or movement.  Our bodies react this way as a result of our cave man past.   If you are a cave man and being attacked by a lion, you don’t want to be focused on the pain, you want to be focused on fighting back or escaping.   
 
Our brains work the same way, causing many of our addictions and mental disorders in modern times.  As mentioned, the brain was designed to seek out stimulus, and when it is doing so to override a pain response, it does not care wether it is a good stimulus or a bad one.  It is very common that individuals will crave foods that they know are bad for them, or that they know casue sensitivies.  They eat those foods and their body responds neurologically and chemically.  The brain lights up and recognizes that was the stimulus they were looking for and the the pain went away while they were responding to that stimulus.  
 
Chemically the body responded and created more inflammatory chemicals. Now the body craves even more of that stimulus because it wants to deaden the pain and stimulate the brain.  This becomes a positive feed back loop because the more stimulus you take in the greater the affect, the greater the immune response, and so on until it becomes self perpetuating. 
 
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