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Stress

Treatments For Stress Reduction

A form of psychotherapy called medical psychotherapy is one of the methods used to deal with stress. It is primarily a talking therapy based on the principle that when people can talk about what is troubling them, they can lessen the amount of stress they feel. It is important for the therapist to understand the nature of the illness around which the stress is involved. In this kind of supportive therapy, the goal is to help patients deal with the feelings stimulated by traumatic events, illness, or conflicts that produce stress. Medications may also be used, such as anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs, which are best administered by a psychiatrist knowledgeable about stress-induced disorders. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of their patients come for treatment of a stress-related condition.

Selye believed that the stress of life contributed a great deal to aging. A method of treatment for stress developed after his theories became popular was called progressive relaxation. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and creative visualization are often used successfully to reduce stress and boost the immune system. Often, life-style changes are necessary also, such as a healthier diet, smoking cessation, aerobic exercise, and group discussions.

Advances in biochemical research hold a promising future for the treatment of stress and its related diseases. A 1995 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 1997 indicated that researchers have identified a peptide in the brain and the body—prepro-TRH178-199—which significantly reduces hormonal and behavioral manifestations of stress by as much as 50%. This peptide acts by reducing levels of ACTH and prolactin—another pituitary hormone stimulated by stress—which subsequently lowers cortisol levels. By reducing levels of these hormones, anxiety-related behaviors and fear were significantly decreased. Because the overproduction of cortisol is also found in serious depression, and anxiety disorders such as anorexia nervosa, the prepro-TRH peptide may also become a valuable new approach in treating these disorders.


Resources

Books

Cotton, Dorothy H.G. Stress Management. New York: Bruner/Mazel, 1990.

Friedman, Howard S., ed. Hostility, Coping and Health. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1992.

Green, Stephen A. Feel Good Again. Mount Vernon, New York: Consumers Union, 1990.

Moyers, Bill. Healing and the Mind. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Sapolsky, Robert M. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1994.

Schafer, Walter E. Stress Management for Wellness. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1992.

Periodicals

"Abnormal, Abusive, And Stress-Related Behaviors In Baboon Mothers." Biological Psychiatry 52, no. 11 (2002): 1047-1056.


Vita Richman

KEY TERMS

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Atherosclerosis

—Abnormal narrowing of the arteries of the body that generally originates from the buildup of fatty plaque on the artery wall.

Corticotropin (ACTH)

—A hormone released by the anterior pituitary gland in the brain in response to stress or strong emotions.

Cortisol

—A hormone involved with reducing the damaging nature of stress.

General adaptation syndrome (GAS)

—The three-phase model of stress reaction.

Homeostasis

—The state of being in balance.

Peptide

—A combination of two or more amino acids.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

—A response to traumatic events such as those experienced in combat.

Prostaglandin

—A fatty acid in the stomach that protects it from ulcerating.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Stomium to SwiftsStress - General Adaptation Syndrome, Stress And Illness, Recognition Of Stress, Treatments For Stress Reduction