An Open Letter to the Loved Ones of Adrenal Fatigue Patients
Dear Friends and Family…
If your loved one has been assessed to have Adrenal Fatigue, this may be the most important letter you ever read.I hope this information within this note can help both of you. If there’s only one thing I could impart to the loved ones of my patients, it would be this: The best way for patients to heal from Adrenal Fatigue is with the support from those closest to them. My research and clinical experience have proven this to be true.For almost 20 years, I have consulted with thousands of patients in my Pennsylvania office, or by phone or video. The assessment and treatment of Adrenal Fatigue is what I do, all day, every day.
Your Loved One Has Pushed Too Hard for Too Long
Adrenal Fatigue is a stress-response dysfunction that develops because of a combination of genetic vulnerability and enough chronic stress to overwhelm those genetics. This condition takes many years to develop, and the early symptoms are often medicated symptomatically by well-meaning doctors.
Upon evaluation of their medical history, it’s obvious that my Adrenal Fatigue patients are typically overachievers that have pushed themselves beyond their capacity to adapt to the stressors of life; as a result, they are now underachieving. Ultimately, these maladapted stressors take a toll on the person’s HPA Axis, the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and the limbic system of the brain. The dysfunction in the entirety of the stress response system causes this syndrome to proliferate.
Your loved one has pushed herself and “faked it” for too long; she is suffering from complete burnout.This burnout is akin to a zebra in the wild running from a cheetah. The natural experience is designed to last less than a minute, after which the zebra curls up and recovers for a day or two. Your loved one has been “running from cheetahs” for years—not days—with no respite or recovery.
Have You Noticed Your Loved One Is More Sensitive in Every Way?
Stress comes in many forms: the mental pressure of a career or from an employer, the loss of a parent, psychological upset, decision-making, discord within the family, perceived lack of love, etc. Other stressors include the physical stress of a standard American diet (sugar and processed foods devoid of nutrition), blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, spinal misalignment, and pain.
The origin of the stress is not the real issue; the crux of the issue is what the adrenal patient perceives as stress and the subsequent response that elicits. Adrenal Fatigue patients will have an increased stress response to events that the majority of people handle easily.Their five senses are all on high alert. Smells are stronger and possibly irritating. The slamming of a door may feel like an earthquake to them. The phone ringing makes their heart race. They usually react more strongly to supplements and pharmaceuticals. When faced with a decision, they may find it impossible to choose. Their stress-tolerance has bottomed out.
This Is What Adrenal Fatigue Feels Like
So that those who do not suffer from Adrenal Fatigue might understand this, I often will propose a simple exercise for emphasis. I will ask that one considers the last close call he had in a car, getting cut off in traffic, for instance.Now I will ask that he feel that response: feel the blood bound into muscles, heart, and lungs; feel eyes dilate; feel the palpitations; feel the sweat, the queasiness, the sense of fear and panic. I will ask that he then continue to hold on to that experience and add to it the aches, pains, and debilitating fatigue of the last bad flu he had.
Imagine having aches, pains, anxiety, and fatigue 24/7.
If he can imagine this, then he can imagine how it is to be an adrenal patient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your Loved One Is Not “Just Tired”
My thousands of patient interactions have taught me that my patients are not malingerers. There is no greater desire of our patients than to be able to return to a fulfilling, active, and productive life. For those reading this letter, you probably know your loved one isn’t “lazy.”If there is a fault with my patients, it is a tendency to force themselves prematurely back into the lifestyle that they enjoyed before developing CFS/Adrenal Fatigue. This tendency to return to “normal” too soon then causes a relapse in their condition.
A patient’s greatest wish is to be able to return to a fulfilling, active, and productive life.
Time and proper care are needed for recovery. My patients need to make changes in activity judiciously and gradually to prevent any recurrence of their condition and allow space for the neurohormonal system to adapt to each new situation, stress, or demand.In time, I expect my patients to recover completely; however, the degree to which and speed with which patients recover from this condition is quite variable.
How You Can Help Your Loved One
As a friend or family member, we are either alleviating our loved one’s stress or contributing to it, and we must assess which one is occurring.I continuously counsel my patients to do their best to mitigate or control every possible stress that they can, and this is where we can finally help them.We need to do our best to accept, unconditionally, what stress is in the patient’s mind (as ridiculous as those stressors may seem to us at times) and do our best to control this stress.These stressors can seem inconsequential or innocuous: answering the phone, seeing clutter in the house, attending a get-together with friends, taking a walk, or even the lack of touch from a loved one.I understand that this concept can be challenging to comprehend fully, but know that this is the rule with adrenal patients.
Pushing your loved one to “snap out of it” is not the solution; in fact, it worsens their condition by adding guilt to the mix, a crushing stressor they just can’t handle right now. It’s time for support and understanding, not abandonment and criticism.A simplistic but appropriate view of this condition is that, in order for healing to take place, treatment of the patient must outpace the stress of the patient; if the patient and I can accomplish this for a long enough period, recovery is possible.Beyond emotional support, you can keep an eye on your loved one and help them with these key parts of healing:
— Reducing or eliminating external stress.
— Pacing themselves, resting, and accepting their limitations.
— Getting quality nutrition and following a hypoglycemic diet.
— Working on easy-to-follow, low pressure treatment protocols.
Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue Patients
When I work one-on-one with Adrenal Fatigue patients, my treatment plans are individualized.Depending on the patient’s set of symptoms, health history, sensitivity level, diet, social support, and my nuanced assessment of any testing, treatment is unique to the individual. Treatment includes all areas of life.
— Diet and nutrition
— Supplements, vitamins, and phospholipids
— Sleep and relaxation
— Lifestyle, balance, and movement
— External stressor management
— Digestion and immune function
— Self-assessment and care
I hope this letter helps you understand what your loved one is going through daily. Please be patient with them.
Yours in health,
Dr. Andrew Neville