TODAY   |  July 19, 2013

Are you addicted to stress?

Everyone feels stressed out from time to time, often experience such symptoms as headaches, difficulty concentrating, and even insomnia. But can you get addicted to the charged-up feeling stress often brings? Dr. Adam Perlman of Duke University discusses the effects chronic stress can have on us.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> first, how do you handle all the stress of your life? odds are you're stressed. stress after all is everywhere. at work and at play. no matter who you are.

>> it's a very democratic occurrence. ceos, administrative assistants, schoolteachers, parents are stressed.

>> reporter: signs and symptoms range from frequent headaches to difficulty concentrating. even insomnia. according to the american psychological association women are more likely than men to say their stress levels are on the rise and they're more likely to report any physical and emotional symptoms from stress.

>> stress is often caused by all of the stimuli that we experience in a day. the e-mails, the text messages, the meetings, the making dinner, the picking kids up at school. and a lot of those things can feel really good and they get us charged up. they also produce dopamine in our bodies which is a hormone that makes us feel good. what happens though is that dopamine production triggers stress.

>> and now some are suggesting you could be addicted to stress. well, joining us now is dr. adam pearlman who runs the integrated medicine program for the duke university health system . good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> what do you think of this theory that some people get so conditioned to the adrenaline rush of stress and the release of the endorphines that you could get addicted to that.

>> we're all familiar with the term adrenaline junkies and people that love that rush. it's interesting to think it may not be the rush, that sympathetic system , fight or flight , but maybe the more parasympathetic or the relaxed state and we could be addicted to it.

>> do you really think that people thrive off stress for long periods of time? i always think maybe they thrive off of it in the short-term but they're damaged by it eventually.

>> that's really the problem. i think it's important to understand the difference between acute stress which is a response that's very important. we wouldn't be able to survive about it. it happens to positive and negative things and gets us to move away from danger but there's also chronic stress where it's a different firesponse and we see problems with with obesity, diabetes and heart disease and people experiencing chronic stress .

>> we see a lot of this. 35% of the adults on the survey said stress increased in the past year. it affects people differently but the common effects of it, not sleeping, overeating and on the flip side of it not eating enough. missing meals. this has a real physical side effect if you're under a tremendous amount of stress.

>> it's true. the point of whether or not someone is actually addicted is less important. the fact is many of us get addicted to a life style where stress is a regular part of our daily lives and we think that's normal and it isn't and doesn't need to be the norm.

>> some people think they're more productive with stress.

>> they focus better.

>> yeah.

>> it's true. here i am this morning on the "today" show, there's an adrenaline rush it gets me alert, get mess thinking. gets me prepared but if i was so anxious so stressed that i froze up and couldn't speak you tip over to this place where it's counter productive.

>> we're glad to here. hope we didn't stress you out. thank you for being here.

>> thank you very much.