Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Stress, Women and Makeup

Today’s headline appears to be STRESS. I am not surprised by this as it is something I see regularly at work, with patients and among my friends. As a psychiatrist, I am tuned in to subtleties of how stress manifests in my patients. Some may not know that they are experiencing symptoms of stress and displaying signs of stress as a consequence.
It struck me today while getting ready for work, how do I experience stress and what mechanisms do I have in place to counter them? As a result, an idea dawned on me, how do women in particular cope with stress?
I am partial to using grooming and my bathroom as my private reflection space. I take extra long showers, spend time brushing my teeth and perhaps dedicate extra few minutes to skincare and makeup routines. It is the last 2 steps that I am interested in, do women use makeup as a way to mask signs and symptoms of stress? Do we do these subconsciously?
What are the signs and symptoms of stress? ( the list is not exhaustive, just to give a flavour of what to recognize)
Psychological: we could present as being irritable, frazzled, mentally drawn and exhausted, slowed thinking process, loss of irony and humor, forgetful, pay less attention to detail, unable to derive pleasure ( anhedonia), loss of interest,
Emotional: short fuse, low mood, sadness, increased sensitivity to criticism, sudden bursts of euphoria, tearful without knowing why, relationship difficulties, increasing isolation ( due to people distancing themselves or vice versa) , anxiety
Physical: tiredness, increased heart rate ( palpitations), dizziness, muscular aches and pains, tummy ache, dry mouth, irregular bowel habits , increase skin reactions or break outs, dark circles around the eyes, loss of libido or interest in sex
Behavior: looking tense, increase alertness ( it is a paradox but stress makes you look on edge and keeps you on the look out), paranoid behavior ( in extreme cases you could think yourself into feeling like you’re being watched), coming late to work, going off sick, argumentative, short fuse/temper, increase of self soothing practice ( increase alcohol consumption, smoking, recreation drug use)
Women use makeup to hide some of the signs of stress such as inflamed reactive skin, breakouts, dark circles and dryness. Women also may use more makeup ( than they normally would) to cover-up for feelings of stress. I wonder if the makeup advice and tutorial blogs get increased traffic during times of the year when stress is perceived to be high? During the period of economic down turn, cosmetics sales went up instead of down accounted by women buying more skincare and makeup items to make themselves feel and look good. I was one of the many too.
I come to a topic close to my heart, how do we as people MASK the things we don’t want anyone to know we are experiencing? A GP, Hervey Cleckley wrote a book on how Psychopaths can be clinically diagnosed in his book titled ‘The Mask Of Sanity’. Until this day, this book is still part the Psychiatrist’s must read list .
Stress is not a gateway for psychopathy thankfully. But it does lend us certain coping strategies that make us look and act like psychopaths. We adopt certain behaviors that keeps us aloof and distant which prevents people getting close and recognising that we are not well because of undetected STRESS. The extreme side of stress is reckless behavior and risk taking which could endanger ourselves and other in the process.
Chronic undetected and therefore untreated stress can be detrimental to health physically and mentally. Anybody who feels they may be under stress and are having difficulties coping with it, should seek appropriate help as early as possible to prevent long term complications. GP’s, organisations such as SAMARITANS, Psychiatrists, NHS and private counselling services are a few places to begin with to address problems if any of your own coping strategies are not doing the trick!
One of the many reasons why we are stressed today:
I’d appreciate people writing to me and telling me if stress has an impact on their skincare and makeup routine? I’d be interested to know if it actually helps you overcome the feeling of stress or it just merely masks the problems you are faced with?If you just wish to share your tips and strategies of coping with stress, feel free to do so.

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