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There are many causes of psychological issues (e.g., depression or anxiety), including genetic factors, traumatic childhood experiences, the loss of a loved one, or a lack of control over a possible future threat, such as the loss of a job or unpredictable fluctuations in the market.

Everyday stressors can also lead to feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, depression, or anxiety. Although stress may not cause an illness, it has been established that stress may be a risk factor for the development of an illness. Workplace stress, time-pressured tasks, interpersonal conflicts, financial struggles, or isolation can negatively affect our sense of physical and emotional well-being.

A highly stressful event or a series of stressful events can trigger depressive symptoms or anxious thoughts. Psychological treatments within health psychology focus on increasing the individual’s sense of control over these symptoms and his or her thoughts by reducing negative affective and cognitive states and reducing the out-of-control feelings.

Many studies support therapeutic disclosure for its health benefits. Counselling and psychotherapy may sometimes be used in conjunction with pharmacological treatments to decrease the frequency and intensity of stress-related thoughts and feelings.

People who are under chronic stress report a number of symptoms that may or may not affect their functioning. Chronic stress can lead to feeling overwhelmed, inappropriate emotional reactions, nervousness, edginess, anger, or irritability. People who are under chronic stress often report general feelings of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and apathy. They may feel empty or without direction/purpose, report trouble in their relationships, be critical of themselves and/or others, be intolerant of others, and may cope with these problems through substance abuse.

Physical symptoms associated with chronic stress are often manifested as unexplained backaches, fatigue, muscle tension, gastrointestinal discomfort, restlessness, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, or sleep difficulties. Psychological treatments for symptoms associated with chronic stress generally involve reducing central nervous system activation and/or improving strategies for coping with stress.

Example: Terry had consulted her physician after experiencing fatigue, dizziness, and chest pain. A functional analysis of her symptoms by her physician and psychologist revealed that Terry had been scared of losing her job over the past year and anxious about conflict with her husband. Discussing her work situation and relationship issues with a psychologist and learning problem-solving strategies helped Terry with interpersonally challenging situations. She also added exercise to her lifestyle and focused on healthy nutrition, which slowly but consistently improved her energy levels and decreased the intensity and frequency of her physical symptoms.