The stress system we’ve inherited doesn’t always cope well with modern life. Nowadays, an increasing number of people are experiencing stress- and fatigue-related complaints. This is evident from the rising diagnoses of burnout made by general practitioners (The Dutch Ministry of Health and Care). From 2011 to 2018, the number of new diagnoses of burnout increased. The potentially lower numbers in 2020 and 2021 may be influenced by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The term still used by general practitioners for burnout is neurasthenia, meaning nerve weakness. This term indicates that the nervous system is overly sensitive, leading to a chronic state of fatigue and other physical and mental complaints.
The symptoms can vary widely and be intense. Therefore, medical investigations are often initiated to determine the cause of these complaints. When no medical diagnosis can be established based on the conducted examinations, it is still too often suggested that the issues are psychological. Fortunately, there is now increasing understanding for these complaints, and terms such as MUS (medically unexplained symptoms), chronic fatigue syndrome, burnout, and stress-related disorders are emerging.
Dysregulation of the Nervous System
The nervous system is one of the largest systems in the human body and is constantly active. It receives signals from the body and the environment, mobilizes us, and automatically regulates various processes.
Nerves are living cells and, like all living beings, can change shape. This allows the nervous system to adapt to new situations, such as growth, learning, and development.
The downside of the plastic nervous system is that it can undergo adverse changes, resulting in a dysregulated nervous system. Dysregulation is physically observable and measurable. Symptoms from a dysregulated nervous system are not just in your head. Disease, prolonged stress, and chronic stress can cause this. Dysregulation can take two forms:
- An oversensitive central nervous system makes the entire nervous system more responsive to stimuli, such as noise, light, and touch. Additionally, the body’s defense system (stress system) is often too sensitive, leading to mental symptoms. Think of it as a fire alarm that keeps giving false alarms.
- Imbalance in the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system connects to the central nervous system and controls our internal organs. It consists of a part that activates the body (sympathetic) and a part that calms the body (parasympathetic). When there is an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, the body struggles to relax and recover in rest. This can result in similar symptoms as an oversensitive central nervous system.
The Most Common Complaints with a Dysregulated Nervous System
It is now clear that dysregulation in the nervous system can lead to many complaints.
The most common physical complaints are:
- (Extreme) fatigue (link to blog about fatigue)
- Irregular and (sometimes) high heart rate (link to blog about palpitations)
- Accelerated breathing (link to blog about breathing problems)
- Muscle and/or joint pain (link to blog about joint pain)
- Headache (link to blog about chronic pain)
- Sleep problems (link to blog about sleep problems)
- Heavy feeling in arms and/or legs
- Dizziness (link to blog about dizziness)
- Ringing in the ears
- Tingling sensations
The most common mental complaints are:
- Easily becoming emotional (link to blog about emotion and stress)
- Mood swings
- Anxiety (link to blog about emotion and stress)
- Feeling restless
- Concentration problems (link to blog about concentration problems)
- Memory problems (link to blog about memory problems)
- Lack of motivation
- Depressive thoughts
Balancing the Nervous System
Because the nervous system is plastic, it can change. This means that a balance in the nervous system can be restored. So good news!
You can see an imbalance in the nervous system as a fire alarm set too sensitively. The alarm normally goes off during a severe fire. Although the sound of the alarm is unpleasant, we are grateful that it saves our lives. But when the fire alarm becomes defective and oversensitive, it can go off when lighting a few candles. It may even go off randomly, without any smoke or fire present.
In such cases, there’s no need to call the fire department. They would say it’s a false alarm and that it’s necessary to repair the alarm system. However, this should be done by another specialist.
In the case of a dysregulated nervous system, different parts of the nervous system may be oversensitive, causing many complaints. To repair defects in the nervous system, it is necessary to enlist an expert. That expert is you. Only you can influence the functioning of your nervous system. To do this, you must take the right steps and sometimes let go. BioCheck is happy to assist you in this process. Start with one of our programs and take control yourself.