Stress Disorder Theories

Stress Disorders

Stress defined
Stress can be defined as a complex physiological and psychological state in which an individual will feel negative emotions, and have diminished ability to function. A person undergoing chronic or severe and having experienced traumatic stressful situations will lack the ability to think optimistically and feel hopeful and able. People suffering from stress disorders require long term psychotherapeutic treatments.

Stress appraisal theories explain physiological and psychological consequences of experiencing stress for long periods of time.

Stress coping theories are call for trait or state bases. Repression and sensitization, monitoring, blunting, and modes of coping are mechanisms included in explaining coping models for managing stress.

Historically, stress disorders were classified under anxiety disorders. In DSM-V, stress disorders have their own category, including attachment disorders.

Types of stress disorders
Acute stress disorders (ASD)
Dissociative type
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Individuals suffering from chronic stressful conditions feel exhausted and tired, unable to get through day to day tasks, and may feel psychosomatic aches and pains, as well. Stress leads to a state of 'emotional shock', since the capacity to bear or tolerate the same stressful or traumatic conditions are no longer acceptable.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)
In acute stress disorder, the person experiences stress right after a severe stress causing evet or experience. Typically, acute stress disorder symptoms may develop within one month from the time of original occurred traumatic experience.

Dissociative Disorder
Some people experiencing stress can also exhibit dissociative identity disorder symptoms. The motive behind and benefit of such disassociation is to distance oneself from the trauma experience/s as it was or is experienced.

Following a four-factor model, to be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month: at least one re-experiencing symptom, one avoidance symptom, two arousal and reactivity symptoms and two cognition and mood symptoms.
As the term describes, post-traumatic stress disorder comes after traumatic experience has occurred. In case of PTSD, hopelessness, fear and horror are felt on a regular basis. Willpower to live happily is debilitated due to remembering traumatic stress-causing conditions and experiences. Also, in PTSD, intrusive and involuntary recollection of traumatic events are experienced by the person. Intense and prolonger distress becomes evident. Concentration is also affected. the person shows reactivity and arousal symptoms. Individuals suffering from PTSD feel alienated and have difficult experiencing positive emotions. Night mares, flashbacks, and hyper vigilance will all be apparent symptoms that a person is experiencing post-trauma condition related stress. Individuals begin to persistently avoid trauma related triggers. Negative alterations in cognitions and moods occur more consistently. Also, persistent is the theme of self or other blame and lack of positive beliefs or expectations of self and others.

Symptoms and signs of chronic or severe stressful experiences
Days and weeks, even months can go by and the person's health as well as social functioning will deteriorate. Lack of hygiene and poor appetite will ensue. Losing interest in activities that one liked before would be all to obvious. Readiness to handle day to day responsibilities at work, school and at home will diminish. Severity and duration of stress related disorders can further damage the prognosis as the individual may become depressed as well as begin to engage in suicidal ideation. Frequently, due to accessibility, people who are chronically and extremely stressed out, begin using addictive substances - alcohol and drugs - to evade reality and to cope with their stress symptoms in a maladaptive manner. Coupled with the cycle of substance use, stress increases and a vicious cycle develops which becomes challenging for achieving positive treatment outcomes.

Stress Disorders' Treatment
Stress disorders are complex. Decades of cumulative damage from traumatic events early on in life or recently experienced traumatic events as well as chronic and severe forms of stressors can all lead people to full blown stress disorders. These conditions need intensive therapy.
Generally, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) sessions can be very helpful for most patients. Some patients may require psychotropic, anti-depressant, anxiolytic medications.
Recent forms of effective therapy for PTSD include Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Creative and Narrative therapies are also proven as effective in research studies.
Presence of stable and positive social supports can greatly help people with stress disorders to make progress towards normal routines and improved functioning.

For further information, please consult DSM-V to learn differential diagnostic criteria to distinguish stress disorders from other disorders and etiologies.


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