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.

What is chronic stress, and how does it differ from acute stress?

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.

What are the common causes of chronic stress?

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.

Chronic Stress and Our Brain

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.

How does Chronic stress affect Cognitive Function?

  1. Memory Impairment: Stress impairs forming and recalling memories.
  2. Reduced Concentration: Stress leads to distractibility and focus issues.
  3. Impaired Executive Functioning: Stress affects decision-making and problem-solving.
  4. Increased Mental Fatigue: Stress causes exhaustion, reducing motivation.
  5. Heightened Emotional Reactivity: Stress leads to increased sensitivity and reactivity.
  6. Difficulty in Learning: Stress hampers the ability to learn new information.
  7. Brain Fog: Stress causes confusion and lack of mental clarity.Women with ADHD, already facing challenges in attention and executive functioning, may find that chronic stress exacerbates these difficulties, creating a compounded effect on their cognitive health.

Can chronic stress increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases?

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.

What role does chronic stress play in the development of autoimmune disorders?

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.

 What are the effects of chronic stress on digestion and gastrointestinal health?

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.

Can chronic stress lead to the development of chronic pain conditions?

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.

Effects of Chronic Stress on the Body

Under chronic stress, symptoms you may experience include :

  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Rumination or excessive worry
  • Avoidance and procrastination
  • Feeling spacey
  • Physical ailments such as gastrointestinal issues or inflammation-related diseases

Perhaps most concerning is the potential impact on your immune system, which may become compromised.

Bruce Perry, an expert in regulating the impact of stress on individuals, suggests the following strategies for managing stress:

  • Dose your days regularly and frequently, ideally hourly, with repetitive patterned physical and soothing sensory experiences. These interactions can include:
    • Exercise
    • Spending time with loved ones, which can be soothing and regulating for your nervous system
    • Yoga
    • Stretching
    • Engaging in activities like throwing the ball for your dog

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.

Other Ideas:

  • Seek support from people who love and support you.

General Strategies to Decrease Stress:

  • Recognize the concept of emotional contagion. Our emotions are contagious, and the emotions of those around us can influence us. If the environment is toxic, it can affect us, and we can also contribute to it.
  • Practice self-compassion. Recent research suggests that self-criticism triggers a cascade of stress responses equivalent to verbal abuse from another person. Reducing constant self-criticism can help reduce the number of times you activate the stress response.
  • Be mindful of rumination. Rumination plays a role in almost all mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. Catching and shifting your thoughts when ruminating can tremendously impact your well-being and decrease suffering.
  • Identify what aspects of your life you control and start making small changes. This can help restore your sense of control.

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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