Beware of Stress Addiction
> 5/21/2008 4:24:00 PM


The art of relaxation is serious business, and even a cursory look at the anti-anxiety industry reveals an endless array of products, videos, treatments and retreats. But while the larger population spends millions of dollars and hours each year searching for the ultimate stress-relief formula through exercise, guided meditation, and chemical cocktails both prescribed and recreational, many actually thrive on high-anxiety lifestyles and the adrenaline rushes they provide. Whether they happen to be students rushing through crucial last-minute assignments, anxious executives brokering make-or-break deals, or parents looking to stuff their family schedules to the breaking point, these individuals feed an impulsive desire to be challenged on a primal level every day. Like a morning dose of caffeine or an intense exercise routine, these mini-crises serve as sources of power and energy. And contradictory impulses often coexist. Those who sweat on the trading floor and those who save time for evening yoga may be one and the same.

In most cases, this addictive rush is not healthy or particularly constructive in the first place. Many understandably look for a little added excitement in their lives, and the “highs” that induced stress provides can be thrilling. Individuals under its influence may feel especially inspired, but living in such a heightened state of near-constant stress has more than its share of negative side effects: lack of sleep and exercise, unbalanced diets and higher rates of chronic stress fatigue, obsessive behavior, diabetes and even heart disease. It can also encourage compulsive behaviors like gambling, binge drinking, drug use, and unwarranted aggression. And like more common addictions, adrenaline dependency can warp one’s perspective to the point of self-deception: stress almost never heightens acuity or efficiency. As any veteran athlete or public speaker can tell you, performance stress is almost never a good thing, and the belief that one’s mind becomes sharper under duress is a myth. In a manner similar to other types of self-stimulation, the adrenaline high is inevitably followed by a fall which can turn into an ugly crash creating exhaustion, illness, and lack of focus.

Trendy health movements hyping the benefits of regular exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, and other forms of self-maintenance have a very cogent point. Mastering the art of relaxation and the ability to remain balanced in demanding circumstances will increase one’s levels of success and personal satisfaction more than any momentary rush. Adrenaline junkies may thrive on the thrills that their compulsions provide, but they are inevitably damaging their minds and bodies in ways that they cannot yet appreciate. Like more traditional addicts, they may need a little more than subtle suggestion to realize that they’re nursing a serious long-term problem.

Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy