Stress Tolerance: Patterns of Inheritance
Most people can handle the stresses of modern life, stresses considered "normal" in our society, without developing any problems. But about ten percent of our population cannot handle these stresses.
ONE IN TEN PERSONS IS FUNCTIONING IN OVERSTRESS RIGHT NOW -- AT STRESS LEVELS THE OTHER NINE HANDLE WITHOUT ANY PROBLEM.
The reason these people are more susceptible to stress is that they have inherited a Low Stress Tolerance. These persons develop Happy Messenger failure at levels of stress that others handle with ease.
For a person with this inherited problem, YELLOW on the stress scale is enough to affect Happy Messenger function, and cause OVERSTRESS. For most people, OVERSTRESS may be a temporary condition, but for these ten percent of persons, OVERSTRESS is a life-long problem. In our society, if you can not handle a YELLOW stress level, you will be in OVERSTRESS forever.
Such persons typically show signs of OVERSTRESS when they approach their teen years. As we have seen, the teen years are one of the most stressful times of a person's life. When a child who inherits a Low Stress Tolerance enters the teen years, fatigue, sleep problems, depression, crying spells, and anxiety may become manifest.
The teenager will begin to rely on Pick-Me-Up's as"medicines" to make him or her feel better. Patterns of binging or maintenance with Pick-Me-Up's will be established. And the person will often be stuck for the rest of his or her life on the wild roller coaster:
...A host of stressors on the other hand, balanced by alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and an army of Pick-M-Up's on the other. It is a constant juggling act which serves to partially normalize brain function for a few hours, followed by a crash, and then more Pick-Me-Up "medicine"...
This Low Stress Tolerance is an inherited characteristic, and runs very strongly in families. If you keep in mind the broad range of Pick-Me Up's that people use, it is very easy to spot families where Pick-Me-Up use is rampant.
Since the inherited problem is Low Stress Tolerance, you will see numerous family members with signs of OVERSTRESS: sleep problems, fatigue, depression, anxiety, all occurring at stress levels that appear "normal" in our society. Most of the members of the family will have learned to "treat" themselves with some type of Pick-Me-Up. They will use their Pick-Me-Up in either a binge or maintenance style.
Thus, the person you are talking to may be complaining of fatigue, crying, being overwhelmed by life, or anxiety attacks. One or both parents may have been an alcoholic (more often the parent of the same sex), a brother may be a workaholic. Someone else in the family may have stopped drinking alcohol but smokes three packs per day, eats ice cream, sweets, and coffee all day long. The variations are endless, but the findings are the same. Pic-Me-Up use is rampant in many family, practically non-existent in others.
But, you may ask, how do we know that this is an inherited problem? How do we know that the extensive use of Pick-Me-Up's in the family is not caused by the family environment? Wouldn't it be plausible that an alcoholic father would have an alcoholic son because the son would have "learned to drink alcohol"? Wouldn't it be plausible that families that use Pick-Me-Up'steach their children to use Pick-Me-Up's also?
A very interesting study has been done looking at children who were given up for adoption at birth. Thousands of children were involved. These children were placed in new homes right after they were born. They never knew their biological parents.The topic of the study was the pattern of the use of the Pick-Me-Up, alcohol.
The study produced several surprising findings. The first was that children who did not have an alcoholic biologic parent were not likely to become alcoholics, even if they were raised by alcoholic adoptive parents. Thus, merely being raised by an alcoholic in no way caused children to become alcoholics.
On the other hand, sons whose biologic fathers were alcoholics, were nine times more likely to be alcoholics. And daughters whose biologic mothers were alcoholic were three times more likely to become alcoholics -- even though the children knew nothing about their biologic parents!
This study on adopted children has been interpreted to show that alcoholism is an inherited disease. What it actually shows, however, is that Low Stress Tolerance is an inherited condition.
"Alcoholism" is not the disease, it is merely the major Pick-Me-Up that the person is using to try to "medicate" himself.
In previous years, it was not recognized that the various Pick-Me Up's work in a similar fashion. These Pick-Me-Up's serve as "medicines" that a person uses to try and make himself/herself feel more normal again. All the Pick-Me-Up's work by temporarily boosting the function of Happy Messengers. Since this common mechanism of action is still not widely recognized, it is common to hear people speak of the use of a specific Pick-Me-Up as a "disease" in-and-of itself.
For instance, people talk about "alcoholics," and the disease of"alcoholism". They speak of "workaholics," "compulsive gamblers," "compulsive eaters," and "cocaine addicts," as if the use of each specific Pick-Me-Up is a separate disease. In reality, most of these persons have the same underlying problem: an OVERSTRESS which makes them feel ill, and for which they are attempting to treat themselves with some form of Pick-Me-Up. These persons are merely trying to cope, as best they can, with OVERSTRESS.
(This landmark study can be found in the literature under:Bohman, "Inheritance of Alcoholism: cross fostering analysis of adopted men", Arch of Gen Psychiatry 1981, vol. 38 pp. 861-868; See also same volume pp. 965-969 for cross fostering analysis of adopted women.)
We mentioned that you can never accurately rebalance your brain chemistry with Pick-Me-Up's. We now know that at least one in ten of us, those who inherit Low Stress Tolerance, spend much of their life trying to do just that.There are three reasons you cannot restore brain chemistry to normal using Pick-Me-Up's.
One, as we have mentioned, is that the tiny changes in chemical levels, are beyond your ability to adjust "by hand". It is like trying to level the earth in a small flower pot, when the only tool you have is a four ton bulldozer. You are going to end up with a cracked pot.
The second is the fact that all Pick-Me-Up's cause rebound. That is, they quickly make you feel well. But when the Pick-Me-Up wears off, you will feel sick just as quickly. For example, if you eat three donuts and drink coffee with cream and sugar, you are giving yourself a big slug of sugar and caffeine. This causes a quick boost in Happy Messenger levels, resulting in a rapid upswing toward normal levels of energy, a normal pain threshold, and an improved sense of well-being. But, as fast as this boost is, that is how fast the subsequent fall will be -- toward lack of energy, fatigue, aches and pains and feeling ill. The quicker and more effective the boost, the quicker and steeper the fall. This phenomenon is called Pick Me-Up Rebound.
People who have inherited a Low Stress Tolerance, who rely on Pick Me-Up's to try and feel normal, end up suffering from wild mood swings. Some days they are pleasant, happy and energetic. Other days they are moody, depressed and anxious.
What they should be doing, of course, is trying to LOWER THEIR STRESS LEVELS!!
If one can lower one's stress level enough to be out of OVERSTRESS, the body will rebalance itself.
But, most people in OVERSTRESS never think of reducing their stress levels. They don't even realize they are suffering from too much stress. They have been in OVERSTRESS for so many years that they think this is what everyone feels like. So they do the best they can, medicating themselves with Pick-Me-Up's, and wondering why they "feel lousy" most of the time. They go to doctors who tell them that there is "nothing wrong," or that they are "depressed," or having "anxiety attacks", or that they are "alcoholic".
It is a very frustrating experience for these people. So, they continue to use coffee, sugar, alcohol and other Pick-Me-Up's to try and feel normal again. But in doing so, they just make the roller coaster ride steeper, faster, and wilder.
The third problem with Pick-Me-Up's is that the body quickly adapts to many of them. This means that a person has to take ever increasing amounts of Pick-Me-Up to achieve the desired effect. A person may begin by using one cup of coffee a day, and end up drinking a potful; or smoking five cigarettes a day, and end up smoking two packs; or drinking two drinks a day, and end up with a pint.
People use these Pick-Me-Up's as medicines, trying to boost brain Happy Messenger function. But like any medicine, Pick-Me-Up's have side effects. When the body adapts, and the person has to use large quantities of his/her "medicine", the side effects of the caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs become very serious.
A person using large amounts of alcohol is at high risk of hurting others, or of dying from a traffic accident, liver failure, or bleeding complications. Heavy tobacco use damages the lungs and arteries and causes cancer. Lots of caffeine can cause abnormal heart rhythms. Heavy doses of the illegal drugs can easily lead to convulsions, overdose, or death. All of these side effects add more stress to the body, which just worsens the OVERSTRESS.
For all these reasons; the inability to balance your brainchemistry "by hand"; the rebound crash caused by the Pick-Me-Up's; and the severe side effects of heavy doses; using Pick-Me-Up's as medicine prevents stability. Using Pick-Me-Up's as medicine leads to the roller coaster of ill health.
DANGEROUS TEEN-AGE YEARS
Now let us review what happens to at least one in ten persons. They inherit a Low Stress Tolerance. They go into OVERSTRESS usually in the teenage years. They become depressed, withdrawn, do not seem to enjoy life, complain of aches and pains. People around them tell the parents, "don't worry, teenagers are always like this".
The person begins to use Pick-Me-Up's. He or she is seen to be sometimes bright, cheerful and energetic, sometimes moody, depressed and withdrawn. Pick-Me-Up use begins to settle into a style of Maintenance or Binging. Either way, the roller coaster ride becomes steeper and faster. Finally, the person reaches a shaky equilibrium between the host of stressors, on the one hand, and his or her "medicines" on the other hand.
Although the Pick-Me-Up's help the person "feel more normal" in the short run, they hurt the person in the long run. All ofthe Pick-Me-Up's make the person feel worse than they were to begin with. As long as the person relies on the Pick-Me-Up to try and feel normal, instead of reducing total stress load, he/she is condemned to the emotional roller coaster.
Sometimes well, but sometimes irritable, fatigued, anxious or depressed, the teenager just cannot seem to level out his/her emotions. If this pattern is not interrupted in the teenage years, by helping the teenager deal properly with OVERSTRESS, he/she is quite likely to be facing a life-long losing struggle.
"IT HURTS SO GOOD"
The attribute of helping in the short run, yet doing harm in the long run is what we refer to as "hurting so good". This is perfectly exemplified in one of society's most commonly used substances, cigarettes. People use cigarettes as a Pick-Me-Up, helping to boost their sagging Happy Messengers. At the same time, the cigarettes cause severe long term damage to your body. This increases the stress that caused the need for cigarettes in the first place. This vicious cycle, which "hurts so good", is characteristic of all the most addicting substances found in our society.
As an instructive exercise, let us try and design the perfect addicting substance for human beings.
Let us call it "Addict-o-matic".
First of all, we have seen that all the Pick-Me-Up's cause rebound. The sugar high, for example, will be followed by the sugar low. Although sugar may temporarily make the person feel better, the deep rebound will make him feel worse again, so he will want more Pick-Me-Up. That sounds like a good place to begin our designing. Let us throw a nice concentrated lump of simple sugar into our potion.
We can do even better if we put in a few more Pick-Me-Up's. For these Pick-Me-Up's let us select ones that lead to adaptation. Yes, let us add some caffeine next. Caffeine produces a nice rebound low. In addition, the body will adapt to the presence of the caffeine.
At first, one cup of Addict-o-matic will give a person quite a brain messenger jolt, but as times goes on, the body becomes adapted to the presence of the caffeine. Now it may take three cups, a pot, or three pots of Addict-o matic to produce the same effect. As the person gets used to the caffeine, his Addict-o-matic consumption must go up for the Pick-Me-Up's to work. Then, his sugar consumption will skyrocket. This will cause wonderful new peaks and valleys in his blood sugar and really make the roller coaster ride wild. Yes, sugar and caffeine together make a pretty good Addict-o-matic. (Do you know anyone that drinks coffee with sugar by the potful every day?)
But wait a minute, there is another Pick-Me-Up that people become tolerant to: alcohol. Let us throw in an ounce of whiskey. As the person develops a tolerance to the effects of alcohol, it will take ever increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same brain messenger boost. This means larger amounts of Addict-o-matic, and even wilder ups and downs of the personal roller coaster.
At this point we surely must have designed the most wicked addictor, don't you think?
Actually, we can do even worse. What do you think would happen if we could, somehow, slip something into the potion -- something that would intensify the person's STRESS LOAD?
If our potion could increase the person's stress load, it would make his OVERSTRESS worse, which would increase his need for Pick-Me-Up's. The beauty of this scheme is that the same potion that supplies the Pick-Me-Up's would then also supply more stress. This, in turn, would make the person need more Pick-Me-Up. It is a vicious cycle.
We can increase the person's stress load with Addict-o-matic if we add some small amount of poison to it. The poison acts as a stressor, increasing the need for Pick-Me-Up's. But the poison has to be mild. If it is too strong, the person will get too sick, and he won't drink the Addict o-matic. Well, it turns out that we already have the poison in the Addict o-matic. Alcohol is a liver poison, directly killing or damaging liver cells. This damage will add more stress to the body, making the Addict-o-matic much more potent.
(It is interesting to note that alcohol plays two separate roles in Addict-o-matic. First, it has a Pick-Me-Up effect, immediately boosting brain Happy Messenger levels. Then, it has a slower role as a poison, causing a worsening of the OVERSTRESS)
We can also increase the person's stress load by adding certain allergy-causing food substances to the Addict-o-matic. We know that the most common food sensitivities are to milk, corn and yeast. Since we are leaving no stone unturned, let us dump all of these foods into Addict-o matic. Let's use a high fructose corn sweetener for our simple sugar, add that right to the caffeine and alcohol, and then put in some milk.
We don't have to worry about the yeast, because it was added to the mix when we added the alcohol. You see, alcohol is produced by yeast fermentation of sugar. Every alcoholic beverage already contains bits of yeast protein. So when we added alcohol, we also added bits of yeast.
OK, now we have concocted the perfect Addict-o-matic. It contains one, or all, of the common Pick-Me-Up's; Simple sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. It also contains one, or all, of the common food allergens: milk, corn, and yeast. In addition, the most potent version of Addict-o-matic contains a mild poison, such as alcohol. Of course, it is even better if you smoke a cigarette with it!
In reality, you can buy Addict-o-matic ready made at any grocery or liquor store, movie theater or ball game. It's called rum and cola, Kahlua and cream, Mexican coffee, beer, rum cake, chocolate bar, wine, etc. Most of our "junk food snacks" are simple or complicated versions of Addict-o matic.
THAT IS WHY THEY ARE IN SUCH HIGH DEMAND; THAT IS THEY ARE SOLD EVERYWHERE.
Consider Dave, a person struggling with OVERSTRESS. He can't get a restful sleep, has aches and pains, and anxiety attacks. "What is wrong with me?" he moans, "I'm having chest, neck and back pain. I feel lousy, I can't go on this way. Life is not enjoyable anymore..." John works fourteen hours a day, drinks coffee and takes sweets all day long. He has a few drinks in the evening to "relax". But his Pick-Me-Up's only make his roller coaster ride steeper and bumpier. Sometimes he feels"OK", but much of the time he is a "mass of jangled nerves".
So, in exasperation, he goes to the doctor. "Can't you give me something to calm down my nerves and let me get a good night's sleep?" John says. "I just can't handle this anymore."
The doctor, in all likelihood, will respond by giving John a prescription for a PUT-ME-DOWN. Put-Me-Down's are medicines that temporarily force the body into sleeping or tranquilizing.
The most well known of these drugs is Valium. (Valium has quite a few relatives that work the same way but are known by different names: Xanax, Ativan, temazepam are some examples.) Chemically, all the drugs in the Valium family are known as benzodiazepines. Another family of Put-Me-Down's are the barbiturates. These are such medicines as Phenobarbital, and Butalbitol.
The Put-Me-Down's do not work via the brain's Happy Messengers. Instead, they affect the brain at their own unique (GABA) receptor sites. Unfortunately, Put-Me-Down's only work for one to three months. After that, the receptors adapt to the presence of the Put-Me-Down's. Then the person's aches, pains and fatigue come right back again. Unfortunately, by that time, many people find it impossible to stop the Put-Me-Down.
Benzodiazepines (the Valium family) are notorious for this. They have such a severe withdrawal syndrome that people taking them for any extended period of time cannot get off them -- eventhough the Put-Me Down is no longer doing any good!
We know that a person cannot chemically balance his brain with Pick-Me-Up's. They just make the roller coaster ride worse. Add Put-Me Down's to the potpourri of chemicals, and it becomes that much more hopeless. Can you imagine how futile an effort it is to balance microscopic amounts of chemicals in your brain with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and a Put-Me-Down too?!?
Unfortunately, it is impossible for a person to feel anywhere near normal for any stable length of time.
Yet, so many people go to the doctor trying to find a way to feel rested, or to calm their raw OVERSTRESSED nerves, that benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed brain active medicines in the country today. (Remember, one in every ten of us is OVERSTRESSED right now.)