Can You Get Addicted To Stress? Exploring The Link Between Stress And Addiction
Stress has become a part of everyday life whether we like it or not. With so much happening in the world and uncertainty of the future looming over our heads, life is more or less stressful. So much so that stress has now become a natural state for us to be in.
But, the question that comes now is; can you get addicted to stress?
The answer is simple: Yes. Yes, you can be addicted to stress. It all starts when there’s a recurring pattern of seeking events, situations, or reacting in ways that increase our stress levels knowing you’re stressed and are aware of the consequences.
While stress is not always bad (take eustress, for example), still, high-stress levels can wreak havoc on our overall health and cause us severe distress in personal, professional, and social life.
This kind of stress addiction can be seen in workaholics, pressure-seeking personalities, and adrenaline junkies.
Stress addiction is not a clinical or formal diagnosis but is still considered a serious condition. In this blog, let’s explore the link between stress and addiction, the signs you’re addicted to stress, and how to stop.
“Why Am I Addicted To Stress?”
Stress is a major part of our natural fight-or-flight response. This response, once activated, pumps our body full of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol (the stress hormone), and dopamine. These hormones, in turn, affect our central nervous system, increasing body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, also making us hypervigilant. These body changes make us ready to take on any challenge.
When triggered by events such as natural disasters, war, finance, health, workload, relationship problems, or other negative reasons, the stress releases the hormones in our body to help us get through the situation. Once the situation passes, our body slowly returns to normal.
In small bursts, stress is OK and even necessary. For example, you may feel stressed before a job interview or a stage performance. It can push us to do our best, make necessary changes, and grow.
However, the trouble comes when the euphoria of stress response becomes so habitual that we seek stress daily. Examples of this can include overworking where we almost become addicted to the hypervigilant state.
Stress isn’t only a mental response, it’s a physiological response too. Stress brings with it a natural “high”. Our stressors activate the systems responsible for arousal and attention hence waking the neural system that triggers wants and cravings. Exactly what drugs do.
Once a person becomes habitual of stress and the following rush of hormones, it may become an addiction to feeling the rush all the time. This causes us to seek more dopamine to keep the levels of stress high.
Of course, after some time, our brains develop a stress tolerance. This means we need more and more stress to experience the rush. The more stress you experience, the more dopamine (and adrenaline) your brain will release.
If we talk about work addiction, you may become inclined to take on work that you can handle but will wait until the last minute to get it done because the adrenal system, the one responsible for activating the stress hormones, is exhausted, forcing you to work more to feel the rush of stress hormones (the stress hormones are released when we’re under pressure).
If your addiction to stress is negatively impacting your life, it is recommended that you speak to a professional for diagnosis and treatment.
“Am I Addicted To Stress?”
Here are some common signs that may help you understand if you’re addicted to stress:
- Engaging in risky behaviors without caring for the consequences
- Seeking out high-stress activities and situations
- Experiencing boredomunless under stress
- Seeking out (and enjoying) drama
- Constantly putting yourself in stressful situations despite the physical risks
- Saying “yes” to situations that you may not want to pursue
- Lacking self-care and paying no attention to your well-being
- Having physical aches and pains
- Not being able to remember when you were last stressed
Other symptoms are similar between stress and addiction such as:
- High blood pressure
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Insomnia and other sleep troubles
- Withdrawal symptoms
If you’re still wondering you’re addicted to stress, then you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I stop?If you can’t see yourself stopping your addictive behavior, then it may mean you’ve become dependent on the “high” you get from being under stress.
- What will happen if I stop?You can answer this question by understanding your thoughts, your feelings, and your reactions when you think about stopping.
What To Do To Stop?
If you do relate to the above signs then it’s important to consider getting help. Many experts believe that stress addiction in itself can be a symptom of an underlying mental health condition. More often than not, a stress addict wants to experience numbness or a distraction to avoid dealing with unhappiness, loss of control, grief, or other negative emotions.
Addressing the symptoms of stress may take time but you can do your part by making stress management a part of your daily routine. Practice techniques such as:
These techniques are most effective to manage stress. Another way you can control your stress symptoms is through psychotherapy. Effective therapy approaches include:
You can also set boundaries to have a well-balanced life, create a self-care routine to help you relax, or consider joining support groups for additional help.
Of course, recovering from stress addiction is better said than done. It takes a lot of effort, patience, and time but you can do it. Remember, stress can be good but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Slow down and learn to live in the present moment.
If you’re wondering, “Can I get addicted to stress?”, well the answer is yes, you can but you’re not alone. With the right help, diagnosis, and treatment, you can find relief. Consult with a mental health professional to know how to effectively cope with stress.
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