How do you know if you suffer from normal or chronic stress and how to deal with it?

Por Karina Amaguaya | 

In the field of mental health, the Ministry of Health (MOH) treated 608,913 patients across the country from January to June 2023 with various diagnoses. The most common were neurotic disorders secondary to stressful situations, psychological development disorders, and epilepsy.

Veronica Vélez, psychiatrist at the Julio Endara Specialist Hospital, explains that the pandemic has been one of the influential factors behind the emergence of these figures in the public health network. This is because it has led the population to pay more attention to mental health.

The specialist assures that MSP shows an increased concern for difficult mental health situations such as pathological stress, anxiety and the chronicity of these symptoms, which can lead to depression and more sadness.

How do I know if I’m stressed?

Jaime Teran, a psychotherapist and professor of psychology at the American University (UDLA), explains that stress is a normal response that fits the context and situation that triggers it. For example: an important meeting or some business that needs to be solved are situations in which the body and mind react in accordance with this situation.

However, when the context is lost or the answer is exaggerated, this is a change and can become a problem. pathological stress. This can lead to changes both physically and mentally.

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physical effects, says psychiatrist Veles, they manifest themselves as changes in metabolism, in the hormonal part; or in basic structures such as skin, hair, nails. Disorders of the head or digestive system may also occur.

Added to this are muscle contractures caused by high levels of tension in the nervous system. It is caused by a stress hormone called cortisol.

mental affectsOn the other hand, “they are manifested by sleep disorders and eating disorders, which become patterns of a situation of constant tension in which a person develops a feeling of fear of something that he does not know, and a feeling of longing and anxiety.” , says the specialist.

Diseases caused by stress

Psychotherapist Teran explains that untreated or uncontrolled stress can lead to more serious complications, especially in people with a history of heart risks or medical disorders.

In people who do not register any type of vulnerability, the body will respond better in some way, he says. However, it emphasizes that if affectivity persists, it can cause other pathologies such as anxiety or phobias. If the situation is alarming, it can also cause injuries and disorders, muscle pains and even ulcers.

How to prevent it?

Vélez says the first and most important thing is to do some introspection “to show me what things are causing me stress.” To do this, Teran adds, “we need to be very realistic and specific, we need to evaluate as impartially as possible.”

The goal, experts say, is to get closer to the facts, to give some control and get an answer that is as relevant as possible to the situation, which also allows for monitoring and treatment.

Both Veles and Teran recommend determining where stressful situations come from and creating strategies based on this:

  • Personal volume: change habits, lead a healthier lifestyle. “This leads to a change in our structure and how we release certain hormones or neurotransmitters on a daily basis that cause changes in the nervous system and, in addition, bring pleasure and vitality to everyday life. day base.
  • Work: Look for ways to create a healthy, open workplace environment that promotes the mental health of workers and their own.
  • Habitual: if it is a third party, seek specialized assistance.

If these strategies are exhausted and it is clear that there is no improvement, experts note that professional attention will be required. It is not synonymous with drug use, but consists of psychological treatment that can provide tools to relieve stress.

At the moment, Veles considers it necessary distinguish a psychologist from a psychiatrist. According to him, the former is responsible for treatment based on psychotherapy. Meanwhile, the second provides medical care, drug treatment, and this is the one that is achieved after a psychological assessment.

That is, it is the psychologist who determines whether a person needs to increase the level of assistance, and then refers him to a psychiatrist.

family can help

When a person is going through critical episodes of stress, “the function of the family is to eliminate feelings of loneliness through escort,” Veles says.

But one must also respect the space of the person, paying attention to the feeling of loneliness, which can become chronic and lead to a fatal decision, he emphasizes. That is, to be with a person, “if you want to talk or if you want a moment of silence, but you know that you are not alone.”

Although “it is often thought that giving advice or guidance is a form of therapy, it can be a process that helps some people but not all. The process of treating mental illness is subjective, individual and depends on what each person needs, ”adds the psychiatrist.

State Mental Health Services

Nationwide, the Ministry of Health provides mental health services and comprehensive health care for people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction in 468 health facilities at three levels of care.

  • The first level, covering 80% of the coverage of the population, with outpatient care in 281 departments and intensive outpatient care in 63 medical institutions.
  • At the second level, there are mental health departments in 111 hospitals.
  • The third level includes 11 specialized centers for the treatment of people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction (Cetad), as well as two additional institutions: the Julio Endara Specialist Hospital and the San Lazaro Specialized Outpatient Center in Quito.

The national health care system consists of public network institutions (MSP, IESS, Isspol, Issfa) and complementary private ones. In total, there are 1,007 institutions providing mental health care.

MSP reports that since January 2023, a mental health promotion project run by MSP has been operating in Ecuador. Funding is about $27 million over five years.

According to the government portfolio, they currently employ 1,265 professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, occupational therapists, and others. And in 2023, it states that 179 new mental health professionals have been hired in the country to strengthen these services.

For those who require mental health carebe it psychological counseling and crisis intervention, MSP also has telephone line 171, option 6open to the public.

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