Can You Be Addicted To Stress?

addicted to stress

Can You Be Addicted To Stress?

Can you be addicted to stress and cortisol?


I see many business owners who are having a hard time slowing down, relaxing and switching off. They often see their lives as one big to-to list. For some, this can be exciting and energise them. For others, this can be anxiety inducing and wreak havoc on their body and mental health. Even the former group tends to crack in the end. The pace of their lives is just not sustainable.

Both, however, may be caught in something that sounds suspiciously like being addicted to stress.

Cortisol, often called the “stress hormone,” kicks in when we’re faced with challenges, heightening our senses and giving us that extra push to tackle whatever life throws at us. It can make us feel alive, that we are achieving, getting somewhere. In the short term this can be very useful. However, over long periods of time we can seek out this feeling through an obsession with work, achievements, getting through our to-do list and even hurrying through our lives.

Why could we be addicted to stress?

Some argue that this addiction to cortisol is a manifestation of the modern obsession with productivity and success. In a world that values achievement and ambition, the constant pursuit of the cortisol high can be a tempting path. Type A personalities, known for their competitiveness and drive, might find themselves unintentionally addicted to the stress that fuels their accomplishments. Many entrepreneurs and business owners fall into this category.

Dangers of being addicted to stress

But, let’s not romanticise it too much. Chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on both physical and mental health and some things you might see are:

  • Insomnia
  • Hurry sickness – rushing through everything
  • An inability to switch off
  • Irritability with others
  • Judging our worth by our achievements
  • Failure to leave time for family and friends
  • Headaches
  • Digestive upsets
  • Skin problems
  • Blood pressure and related problems
  • Weight gain
  • Mistakes in our business as our focus is on just getting things done

How to break the cycle

If you know you are in the cortisol addiction loop, and addicted to stress, there are things we can do. First, the simplest but hardest step is to re-educate your body and bring those stress levels down. We will work on how to do that.

Many of us are here because we have worked so hard in and on our businesses. We therefore need to look at how we can go forward, sustainably. However, there are times when we have buried painful emotions or traumas with our busy-ness. It can be easier to put a failing relationship out of our minds if all our attention is going on getting stuff done. I know when my father was dying of cancer, I ridiculously started two major projects and found myself in the same stress trap. It’s very easily done. It’s also something that can be helped with therapy.

Therapy for stress addiction

I work with CEOs, business owners and employers around stress addiction and hurry sickness. You can book a call to discuss this here, or email me here.

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