Stress Management: how Stress Can Cause Mental Illness and how to Treat it
Every day, people experience stress or a stressful moment, at least at one point in the day or multiple times. Stress is defined as “a general, not a specific, term and refers to any demand (physical or psychological) that is outside the norm and that signals a disparity between what is optimal and what actually exists” (Herbert, 1997, 530). From this definition, stress is an event that is mentally and physically draining and a very common cause for people to get upset. When people get stressed out, they try many coping mechanisms and that usually helps a decent amount, however for some, the stress can be too overwhelming. That being said, stress is seen to have a very significant link to mental illness, more specifically, schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that causes damage to people’s behaviors, their thoughts and their feelings. (NIMH). While stress can cause schizophrenia, there also many ways of coping and treating both ailments.
Jake Lopez is a 26-year-old, Latino male living alone in Boston, Massachusetts. Jake is new to the big city life and has noticed a change in his behavior, he has gotten significantly more aggressive due to the stress of his new engineering job. A couple of weeks into the job, Jake started seeing hallucinations while working but thought it was just too much exposure to the gas he was breathing in. Although the hallucinations have continued, Jake does not want to seek medical care because of the stigma surrounding mental health and around men seeking the help of a doctor when it is not an emergency. If these symptoms are not treated soon, Jake will have a very complicated life and will have to learn how to live his life completely differently.
Somebody living with schizophrenia can develop three different types of symptoms; positive, negative or cognitive. (NIMH). Experiencing positive symptoms mostly includes having hallucinations and delusions, which is mostly what Jake is going through. However, if Jake does not get the proper care quickly, he can easily start to experience negative and cognitive. Negative symptoms include feeling depressed and starting to lose interest in the things that would usually make one happy. (NIMH). Cognitive symptoms then go into how schizophrenia can start to affect one’s memory and the way someone makes a decision. Jake for now is experiencing the positive symptoms, which are still awful. If Jake does not get treatment soon, he will have to quit his job since his symptoms are very harmful. Clearly, a plan needs to get started so Jake can try and still have a chance to live his life as normal as he can. With the proper therapy and proper stress management, Jake’s stress and schizophrenia can be managed so it will not impact his day to day life.
The first step to getting Jake back on track and fixing this immediately, is formulating a plan he can easily follow. The first part of this plan should focus on dealing with the stress, since that is where the schizophrenia symptoms stemmed from. It is known that mechanisms such as mindfulness, social networks, and in general living a healthier lifestyle can improve stress. (Acabchuk & Johnson, 2018). “On the positive side, other people are essential to human development itself and good social relationships help individuals thrive (Folkman, 1997)” (Acabchuk & Johnson, 2018). From this quote from the literature, it is saying how keeping a good social circle is key when dealing with stress; therefore, when something stressful occurs, people can go to this circle for relief and comfort.
For this, Jake should start looking for a roommate and live with somebody else, to always have somebody to confide in and spend time with. Another way Jake can practice this is to try and get to know his co-workers more and initiate plans with them. If Jake starts taking these tiny steps, they can lead to very positive changes in life, making his symptoms of stress and schizophrenia go down. Mindfulness also plays a big role in stress management. “Thus, coping interventions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, goal setting, etc.) emphasize strategies such as emotion regulation, impulse control, and cognitive restructuring to improve mental health and health behavior.” (Acabchuk & Johnson, 2018). Mindfulness is very helpful with stress since it encourages to be in the moment and take everything one step at a time, which is exactly what Jake needs. Following these coping mechanisms for stress is a very good step in the right direction for getting the help that Jake needs.
Although managing the stress is one of Jake’s number one priorities, he also needs to take steps in dealing with the schizophrenia. The first step in taking care of the schizophrenia would be to go to cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a different approach to helping mental health and is known to be able to help a tremendous amount, “more recent studies of CBT have reported improvements in motivation and functional outcomes. (Grant, Huh, Perivoliotis, Stolar, & Beck, 2011; Klingberg et al., 2011)” (Coponigro, Kring, Moran & Moskowitz, 2014, 371-372.) From this quote from the literature, CBT can help with motivation which would be very good and helpful for Jake.
In the study conducted by Coponigro et al., (2011), it talks about how having positive emotional well-being can help drastically when dealing with schizophrenia. Having positive self-esteem and practicing mindfulness are also key in treating schizophrenia, which coincides perfectly with treating stress symptoms. (Coponigro et al., 2011). The kinds of methods used in this article seem like exactly what Jake needs, especially since it is early on. Treating both the stress and schizophrenia at the same time is key to helping Jake. Although the schizophrenia will never go away completely, it can still be managed so that Jake can live his life as normal as possible; in dealing with the stress, if Jake practices the coping mechanisms that were talked about earlier, the stress will slowly start to become less and less, helping Jake all around.
Although making a plan is very important in this process, adhering to the plan is imperative to ever getting better and seeing a difference. If Jake does not adhere to every step of the plan, nothing significant will get done. A prime example would be if Jake does not practice his coping mechanisms for stress, the stress will cause him to not want to go to therapy and he will not be motivated to fix the schizophrenia. If Jake does not follow the plan, he is potentially at risk for the different symptoms of schizophrenia, the negative and cognitive ones which will prohibit him from ever trying to live the life he wants with the career he wants. Adherence to the health plan is the most important part of the healing process.
Jake is experiencing a lot right now and what he needs is support and help along the way in getting treatment and adhering to the plan. The most important goals that should be achieved are regularly treating the stress and dealing with the schizophrenia by going to cognitive behavioral therapy and also actively performing the mechanisms for the schizophrenia. (re word). Long term maintenance of the plan and following up also play a huge role in helping Jake, he needs to continue with the therapy and stress management so he can continue living his life to the fullest.
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