Posted on Sep 16, 2021, 12 p.m.
Think about something else.
Find something to take your mind off it.
These are the typical reactions people choose when the crippling effect of stress begins to set in. And it makes sense. After all, who really wants to cultivate stress?
However, this approach to dealing with stress actually opens the door to the dangers of ignoring stress. These dangers include both the mental dangers and the abusive habits that are cultivated when stress is ignored. To put this into perspective, let’s investigate what these dangers look like practically.
Stress Leads to Mental Dangers
Ignoring stress is a mental decision, a decision to search for a detour that aims to get around the obstacle of stress. But like a pothole in the middle of the road, stress tends to grow in size and danger the longer it’s ignored, becoming long-term stress. As time passes, greater effort is required to get around it; and the danger grows from potential to inevitable.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes the compounded mental dangers of ignoring stress as the development of conditions such as anxiety and depression. This highlights the severity of mental dangers when stress is ignored since conditions of anxiety and depression only bring about greater intensities of stress on the body. Like a boomerang, ignoring stress is an attempt to throw away the mental danger of anxiety, only to see it return with even greater force.
The danger compounds even more once we realize that this experience of mental danger is anything but an isolated occurrence. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that over 40 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness in America. Add to that the startling statistic that only about 1 in 5 people ever seek treatment for anxiety disorder, making it one of the most perpetual conditions as well.
Of course, when the stress of anxiety and depression continues to grow in intensity, the tragedy of suicide takes place. What makes this a particularly dangerous piece of the puzzle is the fact that suicide rates have increased during the particularly stressful environment of the coronavirus pandemic, with research showing overdose rates increasing 119 percent between April 2019 and April 2020 and anxiety disorder increasing 94 percent. Suicide is perhaps the worst example of the rebound effect of stress. As people grieve for family members and loved ones, stress can often find a foothold in them as well, due to the traumatic situation they are in.
Stress Leads to Abusive Habits
So far, it has been argued that choosing to ignore stress is dangerous because the outlets typically chosen to achieve this are only boomerangs that cause greater stress. Of course, this danger is not limited to mental disorders or the worst-case scenario of suicide. There is also the danger of abusive habits that come as a result of choosing dangerous resources to ignore stress.
No one chooses to become addicted to alcohol, medication, or even illegal substances because they want to feel stressed. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Even recreational drug use is called recreational because the intent of the user is for the pursuit of fun or relaxation, not stress. Far from pursuing stress, stress is the thing that users intend to escape when using legal and illegal substances.
But sadly, the bounce-back returns in this scenario as well. According to one study, when people become addicted to legal or illegal substances, there is a traceable development of chronic stress present in the user. Further, when users turn to substance abuse to escape stress, that same study showed that stress greatly increased vulnerability to addiction. Ignoring stress by seeking to escape it always proves to make matters worse and stress more intense.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
We could say that stress is too dangerous to ignore, but perhaps, at this point, it’s more accurate to state it this way: Stress is even more dangerous when ignored. We know this, and that’s why the effort to uproot by ignoring it is so tragic. Although they are failed attempts at ignoring the problem, they are still attempts, nonetheless, by real people with real problems who know internally that something must happen.
But in the above examples, the attempt to uproot stress is only transplanting stress into a bigger pot. If you are currently facing chronic stress, it is imperative that you do not ignore it. It is even more imperative that you realize the dangerous results of trying to ignore it and only making it worse.
This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
Materials provided by:
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d). 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress
Delphi Health Group. (n.d). Addiction and Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/dual-diagnosis-treatment/anxiety/
Vista Pines Health. (2021, April 7). How Covid-19 Has Affected Self-Harm Rates in the US. Retrieved from https://vistapineshealth.com/blog/covid-19-self-harm-increase/
Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Work Hard, Play Harder. Retrieved from https://delphihealthgroup.com/work-hard-play-harder/
National Center for Biotechnology. (2009, August 26). Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732004/