stressed young man at work

How Chronic Stress Can Lead to a Long-Term Disability

According to Smithsonian, Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report illustrated that “More than half of United States respondents—around 55 percent—reported feelings of high stress the day prior to being polled…while 45 percent said they felt worried ‘a lot of the day’”. With the global stress levels at approximately 35%, this left the United States in a four-way tie with Albania, Iran, and Sri Lanka for the fourth-most stressed country in the world.

And while a certain amount of stress is normal, chronic stress can cause more than just a few restless nights.

What stresses you out?

In November of 2017, the American Psychological Association released the findings of their annual Stress in America survey and found that roughly 61% of Americans feel stressed about their work lives. But some jobs can be more stressful than others.

It’s also worth noting that some of these types of jobs are known to attract specific personality traits. Occupations in the legal and medical field rank as some of the most stressful jobs in the country, which is something both the ABA and AMA are aware of.

In recent years, both associations have taken steps to improve access to mental health services for their members, and to destigmatize mental health conditions.

The Effects of Stress on Mental Health

According to Psychology Today, “Some researchers have suggested that exposure to a moderate level of stress that you can master, can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress, just like a vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the bug, can immunize you against getting the disease.”

While this approach may work for some, no two people are the same. Everyone has their own unique body chemistry and may respond to stress stimuli in different ways. In short, what stresses one person out could have little to no effect on someone else.

Knowing When to Get Help

Chronic stress can often lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re reluctant to seek professional treatment for these issues, there are several things you can try to help overcome the symptoms. One of those ways is by carefully examining your diet: cut down on sugar, limit highly processed foods, and add fruits, veggies, and whole grains to your daily intake. Exercise is another way to boost serotonin levels and keep stress levels down.

However, if you’ve been experiencing any lingering or worsening depression and anxiety symptoms for two weeks or more, it may be best to visit your doctor.

If left untreated, it’s possible for your symptoms to become so severe that you find yourself unable to live your life as normal. They can actually develop into a long-term disability — and prevent you from working.

Protecting Your Income

In many cases, mental health problems are not something that can be predicted. As is the case with most disabilities, there is only so much a person can do to protect themselves. One of the best ways to do this is to protect your income.

If you are experiencing mental health issues and are forced to take a leave of absence from work, the last thing you want to do is worry about money. Since most of your expenses will continue during a time of disability, it is vitally important that you have a plan that covers those commitments.

young female professional stressed at work

Could Workplace Stress Become A Workers’ Compensation Claim?

According to a CBS News article, it has been estimated that roughly 8.3 million Americans suffer from some form of psychological distress such as a general hopeless or nervous disposition or even clinically diagnosable depression and anxiety-related disorders such as PTSD. While the cause for the sudden uptick in depression, anxiety, addiction, and general stress has been linked to everything from overzealous doctors, supervisors, and hostile work environments, to politics and the economy, and the concern over the ever-increasing amount of “screen time” Americans spend per day, the truth is that no one is able to one-hundred-percent identify the source.

While psychology experts and the media keep digging into just what is causing the rise in stress-related disorders and situations, many of those suffering are plagued with the maybe more important question of what are we going to do about it?

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closeup of someone at their laptop holding a coffee cup

Invisible Disabilities And The Battles Within

Throughout the history of civilization, there have always been things that we did not understand— things that we believed to be real but couldn’t see. Faith, love— even germs all spring to mind though we may not have always had a scientific name for them.

While the human race has come a long way from our earliest beginnings, the simple truth is that science is ever-evolving and new things are discovered every day. Just as today we may laugh at some of the ancestral medical practices of the middle ages, our descendants may one day do the same to us.

The same could also be said for the discovery and further understanding and treatment of ailments previously attributed to an imbalance of the four humors or even demons.

The New Science On Invisible Disabilities

Most recently there has been a renewed focus on debilitating illnesses and diseases that may not always visible to the naked eye or even some advanced diagnostic testing techniques available to doctors and hospitals throughout the world. These ailments have been given the term invisible disabilities.

According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, in simple terms, an invisible disability is considered to be a physical, mental, or neurological condition that limits one’s mobility or senses to the point where the severely impact the individual’s everyday life and activities. Unlike other disabilities, invisible disabilities are imperceptible to onlookers and therefore can sometimes lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgment.

For example, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, “Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has come a long way since the 1980s when it was widely dismissed as ‘yuppie flu’ and was suspected by many health care providers of being a psychological rather than a physiological condition.” To date, there is no definitive test for CFS and it is instead considered to be diagnosed but exclusion.

Another well-known illness for which there is no definitive test to confirm its existence is fibromyalgia. The reigning Queen of Pop (disagree, if you dare) Lady Gaga, has recently (and very publicly) brought the topic of fibromyalgia front and center in the media. Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has struggled with the illness for years, and though invisible— she has chosen to bravely document her struggle with its debilitating effects in the recent Netflix documentary Five Foot Two and has even been forced to cancel a number of shows on her most recent Joanne tour due to the incredible debilitating pain associated with the illness.

Mental illnesses such as individuals who struggle with Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder, and more are also considered to have an invisible disability (if the symptoms they experience are severe enough); however, in these cases there are often more definitive ways of testing and diagnosing cases.

In addition to those previously listed, below are a number of other known invisible disabilities. Please note that though extensive, this is in no way to be considered a complete list of possible invisible disabilities.

  • Allergies
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Brain injuries
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
  • Coeliac Disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
  • Food allergies
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Hereditary Fructose Intolerance
  • Hyperhidrosis
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Personality disorders
  • Primary immunodeficiency
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schnitzler’s Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Spinal Disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder
  • Transverse Myelitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Testing The Odds

According to Disabled World, it is estimated that approximately ten percent of Americans have been diagnosed with a medical condition that could be labeled as an invisible disability. “Ninety-six percent of people with chronic medical conditions live with a condition that is invisible. These people do not use a cane or any assistive device and act as if they didn’t have a medical condition. About twenty-five percent of them have some type of activity limitation, ranging from mild to severe; the remaining seventy-five percent are not disabled by their chronic conditions.”