Stressed? Reach out to your primary care doctor for help

By The Health News Team | May 5, 2022
Doctor holding patient's hand

Primary care doctors are a hub for good health. They help maintain your general health and watch for any changes. This includes changes to your level of stress.

Stress is often the body’s response to physical, mental or emotional pressure, such as having a lot of homework or an illness. The pandemic has increased the stress levels of many. From financial stressors to stress related to isolation, concern for loved ones, increased responsibilities at work or home, and uncertainty regarding the future, many have found the past two years very challenging.

According to Dr. Joy Emmanuel-Cochrane, a family medicine doctor with SharpCare Medical Group, your primary care doctor can help you with your stress, no matter how the condition presents itself.

“The most important part of a doctor-patient relationship is getting to know the person,” Dr. Emmanuel-Cochrane says. “It’s vital to learn what is important to them, respect them and to listen. This helps improve treatment outcomes.”

Recognizing signs of stress
When a quality doctor-patient relationship exists, signs of stress can be more easily identified. These include:

  • Irritability

  • A change in eating patterns — eating more or less than usual

  • Avoidance of regular or fun activities

  • Raised cortisol levels and inflammation

  • Chest discomfort or pain or heart palpitations

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Menstrual irregularities

Additionally, stress can manifest itself differently depending on the age of a person. While a younger person may spend more time on digital platforms to isolate and escape, a middle-aged person may be busy caring for children and older parents and forget to take care of themselves or ignore their stress. Older adults may find challenges in dealing with mental or emotional issues, leading them to isolate and withdraw.

“No matter their age, everyone experiences stress that can impact concentration and even lead to depression,” Dr. Emmanuel-Cochrane says. “Unfortunately, some still see a stigma to getting help, such as through therapy or medication.”

Importance of seeking treatment for stress
Dr. Emmanuel-Cochrane says, people tend to experience a sense of failure if they are unable to manage their stress. It is crucial doctors encourage open dialogue and make their patients comfortable enough to talk about their concerns.

“Once a primary care doctor determines what is causing a patient stress, counseling and medication, if needed, can improve their condition,” she says. “And once in the care of a mental health professional, successful patient outcomes are remarkable.”

Primary care doctors can guide you to services, and there are many online therapy sites, which may be more accessible. Check with your insurance provider to determine what mental health services are covered.

And just as Dr. Emmanuel-Cochrane emphasizes the importance of sharing any feelings or thoughts that are uncommon or unfamiliar with your doctor, she reports exercise and daily meditation are equally important for mind and body. “I always encourage both,” she says.


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