Stress is an inevitable part of life, but some people deliberately seek stressful scenarios because they believe they thrive under pressure. In America – one of the world’s most overworked countries – fatigue and burnout have become badges of honor. If you frequently rush from one task to the next, deliberately burden yourself to avoid dealing with other problems, or find more comfort in drama than you do in contentment, you may be addicted to stress.
How Does Stress Become Addictive?
Are you taking time to live in the moment and celebrate your achievements, or do you feel like there are never enough hours in the day for you to get everything finished? While stress can sometimes be beneficial if it drives you to compete and succeed, chronic, unmanageable stress can saddle you with health issues like high blood pressure, digestive issues, ulcers, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and substance abuse.
Like drug use, stress causes your brain to release a rush of dopamine, a feel-good chemical linked to your built-in reward system. Over time, exposure to dopamine encourages people to repeat pleasurable activities, which explains its role in substance abuse and behavioral addictions. Once you get used to being under constant stress, stepping away from it may start to feel abnormal or even uncomfortable. At that point, it becomes more natural to continue the stressful scramble than dealing with the “detox” of relaxing and smelling the roses.
A stress addiction could also result from the early childhood trauma of growing up in a dysfunctional family where conflict was common and tensions were always running high. In adulthood, you might seek to repeat these familiar patterns, even if you know the resulting stress is unhealthy.
Finding Better Ways to Cope With Stress
Have you ever scheduled a vacation, only to find yourself unable to disconnect and decompress? One challenge of getting your chronic stress under control is learning to manage the sadness or anxiety that might result from it. You must take stock and recognize how significantly unmanaged stress is affecting you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Therapy is one way to productively identify the root cause of a stress addiction and learn ways to start overcoming it. For instance, if you always find yourself saying yes when you know it would be healthier to say no, a therapist can help you learn to set boundaries that let you live a more balanced life.
Other techniques you can incorporate into your life to discover your inner peace include:
- Deep breathing techniques
- Spending more time outside
- Mindfulness meditation
- Creative visualization
- Practicing self-care
- Taking days off to focus on wellness
- Joining a support group
Talk to a Recovery Expert
For almost four decades, Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers has been giving people the tools to help them understand and manage the disease of addiction – from educational resources to inpatient and outpatient treatment. Our expert staff have guided more than 100,000 people toward healthy, substance-free lives through compassionate, quality care. Whether you are seeking help for yourself or a loved one, take the first step by connecting with us today.