It’s no secret that stress can take a toll on your health. But you may not realize that low-level, chronic stress can be just as harmful as acute stress. When you’re constantly under pressure, your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, releasing stress hormones like cortisol. These hormones can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Chronic stress can also increase your risk of developing heart disease, obesity, cancer, and type 2 diabetes!
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, finding ways to manage your stress is essential. Relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, spending time with loved ones you don’t feel the need to mask, and regular exercise can help reduce stress levels and improve your overall health.
Our bodies are perfectly designed to handle and regulate acute stress. For example, our sympathetic nervous system turns up, and our parasympathetic nervous system turns down—our stress response hormones increase, and cortisol and adrenaline become available. Adrenaline increases the heart rate and elevates the blood pressure, ensuring we have the energy to fight predators. Cortisol alters our immune, digestive, and reproductive systems, preserving all energy for our fight-or-flight needs. It’s phenomenal, really, what our bodies do.
However, when we experience chronic stress, our bodies are constantly in this heightened state, which can be taxing on our health.
Imagine perceiving daily events as life or death threats, such as a demanding boss, relationship stress, financial worries, or significant life events like divorce or loss. Engaging in the stress cycle repeatedly throughout the day can have a detrimental impact on our bodies. We know adhd women are much more prone to chronic stress because of lacking support in the neurotypical world. The threats and stress that neurodivergent people feel begin in childhood and accumulate over the years.
Stress is processed in our brain, specifically in the base of our brain, known as the old brain. This part of the brain focuses on survival and is not adept at problem-solving or complex thinking. Its reactive nature makes it more sensitive and prone to perceiving non-threatening situations as threats. For instance, individuals who have experienced emotional hurt in relationships may see emotional threats everywhere in relationships. Similarly, exposure to negative news can lead to heightened fear, stress, and impaired clarity of thought.
For information to reach the thinking part of our brain, or the upper part, the lower part (old brain) needs to be calmed down and assured that there is no threat. Until then, our thinking skills are compromised, leaving us feeling stuck, panicked, and unable to function effectively.
When we experience chronic stress, our bodies release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can negatively affect our cardiovascular system.
These stress hormones can increase heart rate, elevate blood pressure, and constrict blood vessels. Over time, these physiological responses can lead to the development or worsening of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Not surprisingly, some studies show higher rates of cardiovascular illness in Adhd women.
Chronic stress plays a significant role in the development of autoimmune disorders. Cortisol disrupts the balance of our immune system.
Under chronic stress, the delicate balance of our immune system can be disrupted. Prolonged release of stress hormones can lead to an overactive immune response, causing our immune cells to mistakenly attack our own healthy cells and tissues. This chronic immune system activation promotes inflammation and can impair the function of regulatory T-cells, which help prevent autoimmune disorders.
Some studies have found a higher incidence of certain autoimmune disorders among individuals with ADHD compared to those without the condition. These disorders include, but are not limited to, conditions like thyroid disease, asthma, and allergies.
Chronic stress can have various effects on digestion. It can decrease stomach acid production, leading to issues like indigestion and nutrient deficiencies. Stress can also slow down digestion, causing constipation or diarrhea. Additionally, it can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, contributing to conditions like IBS and IBD. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making the gastrointestinal tract more vulnerable to infections and inflammation.
ADHD women are more prone to gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, indigestion, GERD, and IBD. These conditions can create a cycle of stress and anxiety, impacting the mental health of individuals with ADHD.
Chronic stress can contribute to muscle tension and increased pain sensitivity, exacerbating discomfort and potentially leading to chronic pain conditions.
Adhd women may experience a higher prevalence of chronic pain conditions due to altered pain perception and the presence of more fibromyalgia, migraine, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Understanding that your stress response system is frequently activated throughout the day and that your brain processes danger through the lower, threat-focused part of the brain can help you make informed choices about stress management. To feel better, it is essential to calm down the lower reptilian part of your brain to access the upper problem-solving part.
Under chronic stress, symptoms you may experience include :
Perhaps most concerning is the potential impact on your immune system, which may become compromised.
Remember, these intervals must be as frequent as possible to counteract the constant overwhelming stress you are likely experiencing as an adhd woman. Physical activity or interactions with loved ones can help calm your body when under extreme stress.
For more information on stress, you can refer to the following resources:
Please note that the medical information provided on this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, it is important to consult a healthcare provider for treatments.
Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.
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