"So Stressed," by Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton, examines the consequences of stress on women.
The authors, both doctors, chronicle the symptoms, from hair loss to dull skin to looking older than you are, and identify ways to help you regain control and reduce stress.
Read a chapter from the book below, then click here to explore the "GMA" Library for more great reads.
Check out the "So Stressed" Web site by clicking here.
HOW STRESS LOOKS
Sally, a twenty-five-year-old mother of a young son, sat rigidly on the examining table, looking thin and frail. Her eyes were puffy,her skin dull. She had made an appointment to see Stephanie again because her vaginal pain and discharge, which had been occurring for several months, had not responded to various treatments. She was terrified, convinced that she had terminal cancer.
Her examination revealed swelling and redness. Under the microscope, the sample showed huge numbers of inflammatory cells without obvious offending bacteria or yeast. Sally fit a diagnosis of desquamitive inflammatory vaginitis, which stems from an overactive immune system. Her immune system was attacking the cells of her vagina as if they were foreign, leading to outright pain, excessive vaginal secretions, and difficulty having intercourse. Sally did not appear relieved when Stephanie assured her that there was a treatment that would probably resolve her condition completely. Still convinced that she had a serious illness, she felt miserable and had been getting worse.
Our clinical experience at OC Gyn has shown that this is a stress related condition, but Sally had not made a connection between any stress she was experiencing and her persistent physical problem. When Stephanie asked Sally directly if she was experiencing more stress than usual, Sally cracked and began to cry. She confided that her son was defiant and extremely demanding. Her husband worked long hours in hopes of moving up at his job and was never home. She had no help, because her husband felt it was an unnecessary expense and they were saving for a new home with room for more children. No family members lived nearby to give her a hand; she had to do it all alone and felt isolated. By the time her husband came home, she was exhausted and irritable. She didn't mean to be difficult, especially since he was working so hard, but all they seemed to do was bicker.
Sally's stress had been so bottled up within her that she simply couldn't stop crying now that she was admitting how hard things were for her. Stephanie listened, let her vent, and consoled her as best she could. When Sally calmed down, they discussed a treatment plan for her vaginal condition, and Stephanie explained that she would not get better until she addressed her stress level. Stephanie explained how important it was, not so much because Sally was physically uncomfortable but because the stress was clearly affecting her immune function and could lead to more serious health consequences. Stephanie suggested that Sally seek professional therapy and also find some time for herself.