I admit it: I'm a bit of a stress case. So much so, in fact, that my mom frequently reminds me that I shouldn't get so upset over little things. "It's not good for your health," she'll tell me.
In a San Francisco Chronicle article published online today, writer Erin Allday discusses just how right my mom is. Allday's piece highlights the growing body of research suggesting that anger, and the inability to handle stress appropriately, can lead to health problems. "It's sort of like idling the car too high on the traffic light - you're going to be racing your engine when you don't need to," Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, told her.
Allday's article focuses on people with serious anger-management issues ("the boss who blows her top when a meeting runs five minutes late, the man in the coffee shop who screams and rants when his latte isn't made with soy milk"), and I can happily say that I don't fit in that category. But, crazy outbursts or not, chronic stress isn't good for anyone:
Over time, chronic stress can weaken the immune system or, alternatively, send it into overdrive, which can lead to autoimmune disorders. Chronic stress may be a cause of inflammation, which can negatively affect almost every part of the body, from the cellular level on up. Inflammation may be a cause of thickened arteries.
Allday goes on to discuss ways people can control their anger and better handle stress - and how they can determine whether they've got a problem in the first place. I like the way Spiegel, a stress expert, puts it: "It's like with drinking - if you've gotten drunk a couple of times in the last year, you're a human being. If you've done it every night for the past two weeks, you've got a problem."
Previously: Robert Sapolsky on stress and your health
Photo by RLHyde