September 17, 2008

Financial Worries, Other Stresses Are Manifested Physically

By Janet Kornblum

As the market melts down, hurricanes wreak havoc, war grinds on and feelings of helplessness set in, stress goes up.

That can bring on a host of unpleasant physical symptoms, say health professionals.

When we get stressed, our bodies naturally respond. Stress-related ailments include headaches, restlessness, agitation, insomnia, irritability, neck pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, insomnia, chest tightness and lack of sex drive.

"With any kind of situation that we perceive as stressful, and we perceive ourselves as being unable to cope with it, we experience physical symptoms," says Katy Kamkar, a clinical psychologist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Professionals who see patients every day agree. "The connection between mind/body is seamless," says Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. "There isn't a separate brain and a separate body. What you're thinking about has an effect on your physical well-being. General good health means good mental health."

Uncertainty around the economy, especially, is creating "a high level of anxiety," says Michele Dodds, vice president of health and wellness at ComPsych, an employee assistance and wellness provider. ComPsych has seen a 10% to 15% spike in calls since the weekend, which Dodds attributes to "financial issues and stress."

Financial adviser Gary Bramon of Novato, Calif., says he has noticed a definite rise in stress levels among clients in the wake of bad economic news.

"We're all anxious," he says, and it seems independent of monetary worth.

"Somebody with $150,000 is just as anxious as somebody with $3 million," he says. But "the closer you get to retirement and the older you are, the more anxiety you have."

He's hearing of folks who are having trouble sleeping and getting headaches. But he adds, "I'm sleeping really well. I know this will come back. It always has. And always will." (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>