Low Stress Tolerance

Sez WHO!?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Part of The Challenges Inventory™ Series

One of the many things you will read about ADD/EFD and those who are diagnosed with any of what I call the Alphabet Disorders is that we have a tough time dealing with stress — what is referred to as “low stress tolerance.”

While true in one sense, I would like to suggest some alternative explanations for what masquerades as a lower-than-average ability to deal with stress.

Everybody has a problem with stress. 

Nobody reacts well to it in the long run.

In the articles “filed” in the category with this one, I will explore stress from a number of vantage points, beginning with the clear statement that, in the twenty-first century, stress is endemic – something everyone must find a way to manage.  It is not a problem confined to those with Executive Functioning Disorders.

With the perception of a threat to our well-being, our bodies are designed to respond rapidly and efficiently with what’s termed the “fight or flight” reaction. The survival of our genetic ancestors depended on their biological ability to respond effectively to dangers where strength needed to be marshaled immediately.  

Only those who survived stayed around to contribute their DNA to the human gene pool, passing down that hair-trigger alertness to danger – what we now call the stress response – to the next generation.

Since the evolution of our biology has not been able to keep pace with the evolution of our technology,  that hair-trigger response to stress has continued to be passed down in our genetic code, even though it is now more likely to contribute to our demise than our salvation.

You and I were born with a neurochemical ability to become flooded with everything we need to outrun or outfight dangers we will never encounter in the lives we live today. Yet we still respond to the stressors we encounter with the same flooding of chemicals.

And boy does modern life offer opportunities to trigger that response!

More than Frustration

Part of our automatic response to stress is the release of corticosteroids from our adrenal glands, which are rapidly converted to cortisol in the blood stream.

Chronically elevated levels of cortisol does a lot of nasty damage, not the least of which is that it has an immuno-suppressive effect, with a negative effect on concentration.

Before we take a look at the damage that living with long-term stress does to our bodies and our brains, let’s examine the idea of “low stress tolerance” a bit more more closely. 

If we’re going to work with the concept, we’d best begin by distinguishing the term.  It’s important for this discussion that we all look at it in a similar fashion.

What ARE we talking about here?

Since everyone responds to stress differently, the specific causes of stress differ from one individual to the next.  We tend to envision “low stress tolerance” in a manner that might encourage us to believe that there is a particular personality type or genetic profile that causes an individual to over-respond to stressful events.

  • It is certainly true that certain studies have determined that a genetic abnormality in serotonin regulation is associated with a heightened reactivity of heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress
  • It is also true that serotonin levels are by and large determined by genetic factors.
  • HOWEVER, I’d like to suggest that the above idea is not really the most useful lens to use to examine the implications of “low stress tolerance.”

Hyperstress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or she can handle, resulting from being overworked or overloaded emotionally or psychologically.  When someone is hyperstressed, even little things can trigger a strong emotional response that could be described as “low stress tolerance.”

But is it really?

Anyone whose life keeps them in a “crises” state is going to exhibit signs of “low stress tolerance” eventually.

It isn’t so much that their ability to deal with stress is substandard, it is that the body chemistry is already pumping at or near maximum volume, so there is no reserve to pump out when yet another crises appears.

The coping mechanisms are already pushing the limits, so any additional input is too much.

Yet there are people who seem to thrive under “stress” that others find intolerable, many of them ADD/EFDers.  Those individuals are often restless and uninspired when they are forced to endure activities that lack sufficient challange.  Are they setting themselves up for hyperstress?

That question and others will be addressed in articles to come – so stay tuned.

Your connection to articles about ADD and Stress Tolerance will be found on the lower of the two menubars at the top of the site, far right on the lighter grey menubar, in the drop-down category :

G. From my Books  — 5 The Optimal Functioning eBook Series — StressLess™

If you visit often, you may also catch a stress title among the newer content on the list of links to newest articles on the column to your immediate right.

If you’d like notification of new articles, give your email to the nice form at the very top of that column. Stringent NO SPAM policy.

HOWEVER you do it, stay tuned — there’s A LOT to know, and a lot more to come. Get it here, while its still free for the taking!

CLICK HERE to read another interesting ABOUT STRESS article

And CLICK HERE to read ALL about stress!

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

12 Responses to ABOUT ADD/EFD & STRESS

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  2. auntie lester says:

    TLDR!! If you found readers who stayed with you through that article, they may have been misdiagnosed!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lol – This is one of the shorter ones, even. 🙂

      I have been doing my best to keep things as brief as possible, but the longer articles are the ones that help the most.

      Take it in parts if you struggle with reading – some of my clients do it that way, and find that it was usually worth the effort. There’s only so much anybody can do in a tweet.


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  10. Total Fat Solution says:

    What you said here resonates with me right now–Big Time!
    “Anyone whose life keeps them in a “crises” state is going to exhibit signs of “low stress tolerance” eventually. It isn’t so much that their ability to deal with stress is substandard, it is that the body chemistry is already pumping at or near maximum volume, so there is no reserve to pump out when yet another crises appears. The coping mechanisms are already pushing the limits, so any additional input is too much.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • YEP! Here’s the hitch in THAT get-a-long . . . there is only so much stress WE can control – those of us with ADD. Our dear and wonderful non-ADD friends (inadvertently) shove a ton of it on our plates, mostly because they don’t “listen from belief.”

      WE know the cost of *their* impulsivity to OUR lives (by that I mean their lack of verbal or physical filters – or failure/unwillingness to use them). Yet when we attempt to set boundaries around it, no go!

      If THEY don’t need it, WE don’t get to need it!

      When we freak following their insistence that we “CALM DOWN!” when we react negatively to their latest “intrusion” into our tenuously ordered existence, it’s positioned as OUR “missing” rather than their transgression.

      I’m currently drafting an article about what I’m referring to here, but I doubt if it will solve the problem (beyond lowering our stress a teeny bit by allowing those of us at the effect of it feel a little less alone.)

      Few of us want to alienate our friends (too stressful! ::grin::) – and most of our friends will fail to recognize what they do to us unless we point out SPECIFICS tagged with their names.

      Tell me again why ADDers are the ones who have “social skills” problems????


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