What Is Chronic Stress?
What Is Chronic Stress?
A Matter of Biology, Not An Issue of Psychology
Majid Ali, M.D.
I designate chronic stress as biologic addiction. Alcoholism, cocaine addiction, chronic anxiety, and chronic anger are all matters of biology, not issues of psychology. The same holds for chronic stress. My view of chronic stress being a biologic addiction is likely to surprise most people and annoy many. I offer it for a very strong reason: Problems of biology cannot be properly addressed by talking about psychological theories. They require a sound biologic approach.
I see a crucial difference between spirituality and psychology. Spirituality does not recognize the past. Psychology cannot do without the past.
Roots of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress, like anxiety, begins as a desire for something without knowing what is desired. It usually starts in early life. Not understanding what is desired creates a negative sense. A child bullied at home or school senses that something is not quite right but often is unable to describe what the negative sense might be. Simply stated, chronic stress at this level is separation from self. To cite one specific example, for an Asperger’s child, this separation would be lack of structure in life.
Chronic stress, like anxiety, deepens as episodes of separation from self recur with increasing frequency or takes different shapes. Deepening anxiety then unmasks itself by its physical attributes, such as undue tiredness, rapid heart rate, cold hands, irritability, sleep difficulties, visible and unexplained sadness, and others. Coexisting issues of sugar and antibiotic abuse, undetected and untreated food and mold allergy, and issues of gut fermentation add to the biologic burdens. I consider this state of being as increased but unrecognized evolutionary demands on various body organs.
From Desires to Demands
Chronic stress is a state in which 50 billion or so cells in the brain hold as hostage 50 trillion or so cells in the rest of the body. The more body cells cry out for escape, the tighter the clutch of the brain cells. The “Head-cells” thrive on recycling past misery. When that is not enough they precycle feared future misery. The “Body-cells” desire to be free—breathe their own air, so to speak—but do not quite know what they desire or where the escape hatches might be.
What Is Stress?
Stress, first and foremost, is an oxygen problem. The negative health effects of what is commonly called stress are caused by disruptions of oxygen homeostasis, whether starting with irritability, undue tiredness, non-restorative sleep, rapid pulse, cold hands, or deep disappointments of life. I discuss this subject at length and offer my guidelines for preventing negative bodily effects of stress in a companion article in my Course on Stress entitled “The Seven for Stress.”
My patients with severe, chronic stress have given me four insights:
First, the common notion of stress being the fight-or-flight response launched by the adrenal gland is so superficial as to be clinically irrelevant.
Second, the prevailing idea of mind-over-body healing is a cruel joke, and, in essence, pours salt on their wounds.
Third, spiritual and ethical equilibrium, not psychology, is the answer to the problems of life’s disappointments.
Fourth, the best long-term results are obtained when works with ethics and spirituality are integrated with issues of toxic foods and toxic thoughts.
The book is available at http://www.AliBooks.org
Please also consider Dr. Ali’s Anxiety Course