How to Talk to Your Doctor About Stress Issues

By Rachel Grumman Bender for

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We all have days when we feel so overwhelmed with stress that we don’t know whether to pull our hair out and scream or sit in a corner and cry. But chronic stress is the real problem: It can dampen your immune system, making it harder to fend off colds and diseases. Research also shows that stress promotes pimples and environmental stressors may turn hair grey.

When to Bring It Up: Obviously, experiencing some stress is normal. But if it’s chronic or overwhelming, you should bring it up to your primary care physician as well as consider speaking with a therapist who specializes in stress management.

“How each of us defines stress is very different: some of us have physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches, while some of us have behavioral symptoms such as nervous ticks, trouble sleeping, pacing, anger and anxiety,” says Wellness Advisor Beth Ricanati, M.D.

When stress interferes with your quality of life and your ability to perform on a daily basis, that’s a red flag. Not sure how much it’s affecting you? Talk to your partner or a close friend and get feedback on your stress levels and whether they’re out of control.

Talking Points: Stress can manifest itself in several ways – from being more irritable and short-tempered than usual and clenching your jaw at night to eating too much or not enough, according to YouBeauty Integrative Health Expert, Jim Nicolai, M.D.

Ask yourself these questions, jot down your answers and use them as talking points with your doc: Are you waking up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep?  Are you snapping at your kids? Are you eating more junk food?

If you have heart palpitations, “you might say, ‘I’m feeling palpitations,’” suggests Marie Savard, M.D., an internist specializing in women's health and author of "Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk and Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions. “'I know I’m under stress, but I’m worried it could be something more.’ You have to paint a compelling picture about yourself.”

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