Our fast-paced modern lifestyles mean that some level of stress is taken as a given for almost every one of us. We all also handle possible stressors differently – what one person might find overwhelming another may find exhilarating, and where one person might get tense or frustrated, for example, sitting in traffic on the way to work, another person might relish the time to sing along to a favourite CD and prepare mentally for the day ahead.
As there is no definitive medical test that can tell you whether you have too much stress in your life or not, your doctor will make the diagnosis based on symptoms alone. He or she may ask you questions pertaining to when your symptoms seem to flare up, how long you’ve been experiencing them and more broadly about what’s going on in your life, to potentially pinpoint a culprit for your tension. (For more information on the symptoms of stress, see here.)
If deemed necessary, further testing may be carried out to rule out any underlying physical condition that could be behind your symptoms. It’s vital that you pay attention to your body and not dismiss any potential warning signs of a serious underlying illness as ‘just stress’.
While chest pain, light-headedness and shortness of breath may possibly be symptoms of stressed out, they can also be signs of a heart attack and should be taken seriously, especially if experienced during physical activity or if the pain feels like it is radiating into your shoulder, arm or jaw.
Once the physical examination has been concluded and all medical causes for your symptoms have been ruled out, your doctor will look for an underlying stress or psychological disorder that may be precipitating your distress.
Your doctor may refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for further insight into your condition.