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Chronic distress is a state characterized by a tendency to develop negative feelings and attitudes. It is not quite a state of depression or a mental condition, but chronic distress can have a negative impact on health. Several studies on chronic distress have also shown that it is relatively easy to identify, leading researchers to carry out studies on how chronic distress relates to several medical conditions and their outcomes.
Some people consider chronic distress to be a personality type. Someone with chronic distress isn't necessarily in a constant state of distress, but he or she has a large number of negative emotions like frustration, anger, worry, and gloom, or is prone to developing those emotions. He or she may also have a very negative attitude about life. However, someone with chronic distress is not in a state of depression which would require medical treatment and evaluation; it's more like a state of mind.
Research seems to suggest that people prone to chronic distress may not be as healthy as people with more cheerful outlooks on life. Chronic distress, for example, appears to cause patients to have less positive outcomes after surgery, especially in the case of cardiac patients. It also seems to contribute to cognitive impairments in old age, and while it cannot cause conditions like Alzheimer's disease, it can certainly contribute to them.
Like any other personality type, chronic distress can be recognized and dealt with, and people can take action to compensate for being prone to negative feelings. Many doctors recommend regular exercise and socializing for people with a “Type D” personality, in the hopes that activity will stimulate more positive thinking in addition to keeping people healthy. Individuals with chronic distress may also be encouraged to actively seek out things which interest or excite them.
Many people cope with chronic distress quite well, leading healthy, happy, successful lives. Others may fall prey to their personality type, turning a negative outlook on life into a negative life, and these individuals may be at increased risk for certain age-related health problems. By being aware of a tendency to develop negative emotions, people can counteract the role that chronic distress plays in their lives, focusing on developing healthy relationships and habits which promote long-term good health.