Stress has become totally linked with modern-day life. Work, family problems and different concerns create an accumulation of biological and psychological reactions which, when they cannot be controlled and managed, have very harmful consequences. The problem is so serious that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers stress a global epidemic.
In Spain, according to the latest CinfaSalud study into 'Perception and habits of the Spanish population with regard to stress', about 42 per cent of the population frequently or constantly suffers from this condition, while 96 per cent have suffered stress symptoms in the past year.
By gender, this study, which is supported by the Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress (SEAS), reveals that 48.7 per cent of women are affected compared with 31.5 per cent of men, and in both cases it is more common in people under the age of 45.
The causes of this illness are very diverse, although some of the more habitual ones are having too much to do or too little time, tiredness and lack of sleep, problems at work, own illness or that of a family member, and even the new technologies.
Some of the most common emotional symptoms are irritability, anxiety or depression, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating and performance and even certain obsessive compulsive disorders.
However, stress also has a physical effect on the body, starting from the first symptoms, which are relatively minor, such as headache or becoming more susceptible to catching colds.
When the level of stress and the time it is suffered increase, the consequences can be serious illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, hyperthyroidism, mouth illnesses (teeth and gums), ulcers, loss of hair, sexual dysfunction. Some studies even relate stress with a higher risk of getting cancer.
Stress is also directly associated with premature ageing, altering the immune system and generally increasing fragility, decreased functionality, coronary diseases, osteoporosis and inflammatory arthritis.
The skin can be affected by the occurrence or worsening of eczema, acne or psoriasis.
Research has also shown that stress makes it impossible for the brain to block certain toxins and other larger and potentially damaging molecules. This condition is also more common in patients who suffer from Alzheimers.