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Stress and Illness PDF Print E-mail
Written by Allen Lawrence, M.D.   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 18:50

It might come as no shock to any of my readers who know me that I strongly believe that stress is the number one enemy we have in life. It is true that during the cold war we made the Russians the number one enemy, during World War I the Germans were our greatest enemy. During World War II the Nazi’s assumed the mantle of our greatest enemy and today, while some might argue that our bad economy is our worst enemy, others may well suggest that our current Washington politicians are our worst enemy. In all cases, no matter how far back we go in time, our number one enemy has and always was stress.

We humans’ are naturally always fearful of real and potential threats. Whether, as in the past, it was Nazis’, or currently it is a bad economy, loss of a job, hunger, terrorism, the causes of our stress come and go. We are in fact programed to help us insure our survival to look for, identify and create threats, even when none are actually present. This is not to say that what frightens or threatens us is not always real, but rather that we as human beings, down deep inside of ourselves, whenever we feel a threat, real or imagined, large or small, dangerous or potentially dangerous our stress-mechanism is triggered.

Stress and Fight or Flight

In one way this is a good thing. If we had no stress mechanism we would not be alerted early enough to danger nor would we react in a healthy way to real threats. All animals react to possible threats with a Fight or Flight Response. We either run away or turn and fight.

Way back at the dawn of mankind our most primitive ancestors experienced this. When one of them experienced a threat, it became natural to either run from this danger or to turn and fight it. Those that did neither, run nor fight, were likely killed and eaten by predators. When this happened, they were no longer part of our ultimate genetic pool. On the other hand, those who ran (to fight another day) or fought had a greater chance of survival and if they did survive, they could then pass on their genes to the next and subsequent generations, and eventually to us.

The problem in the end is not the Fight or Flight or Survival Mechanism. It is the fact that we today do not know how to make all of this work for us. When the stress mechanism is turned on, it eventually MUST be turned off. If it is not, then several parts of our stress-survival mechanism, particularly those parts which are responsible for protecting us will become overworked, fatigued, exhausted and because of this they will ultimately break down and stop functioning effectively. The most important of these systems which can ultimately break down are our immune, healing and repair systems. These systems are unable to sustain themselves without periodic release, rest and relaxation. If they are turned on, but not turned off in time, they will eventually falter and begin a process of undermining us. When this happens, we become ill. We know that these stress-related illnesses make up some 70% to 80% of all illnesses that affect human beings.

Unfortunately, we as a society we generally ignore these stress-related disorders. In recent years we have used germ theory, and our meager understanding of genetics to distract us from stress as a cause of illness. The end result is that we, as a people and a species, have more illness and higher medical expenses. Each day I see patient after patients with shopping bags full of medications. I see more and more people who while living longer, are most often living at a lower quality of existence. Many are in constant pain, depressed, unhappy and suffering from a myriad of chronic illnesses most of which were initially caused by stress, but since they were inadequately treated became stress-related illnesses which still could have been cured, eliminated and done away with years earlier if only they, their doctors, the medical profession had recognized the role of stress in causing their illness. Stress-related disorders if recognized early can be completely prevented or cured. Only when we understanding this can we start appropriate treatment earlier, prevent lots of suffering, reduce cost of health care and most important improve our overall quality of life. When we do not treat stress-related illnesses early enough they have only once course their advancement to create chronic diseases and premature, painful death.

Doing Something About Stess

My wife Dr. Lisa Robyn Lawrence and I have laid out the case for stress-related disorders in our new, soon to be released book, When Your Body Talks, Listen! Its earlier version Stress-Related Disorders, Illness An Intelligent Act of the Body can be found at downloaded and read. We are hoping to release When Your Body Talks, Listen! later on this year. Stay in touch send me a note regarding your interest or ask questions of us by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Remember it is extremely difficult to solve a problem if you do not 1) know its cause, or 2) if because of lack of knowledge you are unable to take the exact right action to undo or heal its cause. This is equally true of Stress-Related Disorders, if you do not recognize them as stress-related disorders, caused by specific stress in your life, and then treat them accordingly, your chances of resolving them are very low. Once you understand stress-related disorders, what causes them, how they work, how they cause illness, how they can affect you and what you can do about them, then you can finally do something meaningful about them, you can heal yourself.

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 15:34