When Job Stress Makes You Sick

Article excerpt

It's one thing to hate your job, but it's entirely another to have a job that makes you sick. But today, growing numbers of people have jobs that clearly are making them sick. They are suffering from work stress a cause of tension, pain, irritability and even dangerous accidents.

Statistics kept by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health show that job stress now ranks as one of the top work-related problems in America and is a significant factor in work-related accidents and workers' compensation claims.

Some jobs police work, medicine, education have long been considered stressful. But researchers now say office workers are increasingly faced with a level of job stress that is truly sickening.

"People who work in offices are stressed because their jobs offer little in the way of creativity, control or satisfaction," says Randal Beaton of the University of Washington School of Nursing. "They plug away at the same things day after day, meeting other peoples' deadlines and demands. They have little control over what work they do or their schedule.

"We know animals don't do well in cages," Beaton says, "so why should we expect people to do any better?"

Physical consequences of occupational stress include tension, irritability and pain. "There are a lot of physical conditions caused by occupational stress, such as chronic headaches and recurring infections," says Dr. Azfar Malik, medical director of the outpatient stress program at St. John's Mercy Medical Center.

When occupational stress causes problems with sleep and appetite, it's time to seek help, Malik says.

There are two ways to get help. One approach is to tackle the situation at work. Meet with management to discuss organizational problems. The second approach is to seek help from a mental health counselor or therapist.

Symptoms of stress should be assessed by a trained therapist, said Dr. Jo-Ellyn M. Ryall, a psychiatrist with Washington University School of Medicine. …