PARIS — Nearly 70% of surgeons suffer from chronic stress, yet stress perception and management are underacknowledged in the surgical community, according to an internal medicine specialist who spoke on the topic at the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons meeting.
“Stress is a condition leading to discrepancy between the demands of a specific situation and the social, biological and psychological capacities of an individual. It is a state of hyperarousal which, according to whether the stimulus is perceived as good or bad, can lead to positive excitement or frustration and worry,” Michaela Bayerle-Eder, MD, PhD, of Medical University of Vienna, said.
In his general adaptation to stress model, Hans Selye clarified this double, positive or negative, outcome of stress. The alarm reaction to a stimulus leads to the release of cortisol, adrenaline, testosterone, oxytocin and dopamine and consequent activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system.
“This is a good, adaptive reaction. Typically, in the situation of surgery, these hormones help to focus on the task and enhance your potential. However, overactivation of these stress adaptation reactions leads to burnout and depression,” Bayerle-Eder said.
Up to 68% of surgeons suffer from chronic stress and burnout induced by increased and fluctuating cortisol and catecholamine levels, leading to physical, social and psychological consequences, including drug abuse and a high divorce rate of 30%, she said.
“Stress cannot be avoided in the surgical profession but can be better managed by adopting a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet and exercise, and making time for the family, for socializing with friends and colleagues,” Bayerle-Eder said.
Being aware of one’s own level of stress, acknowledging emotions and adopting mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can also be helpful for stress prevention and management. – by Michela Cimberle
Bayerle-Eder M. Understanding stress. Presented at: European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons meeting; Sept. 13-18, 2019; Paris.
Disclosure: Bayerle-Eder reports no relevant financial disclosures.