What Contributes to Stress Overwhelm?

Everyone has stress in their life. But, some situations and factors can intensify stress to the point at which it just overwhelms a person.  At that point, a person can lose total control and fly off into intense rage and violent outbursts.  Or, the person can experience panic and terror reactions.  These are the opposite sides of the stress response — fight or flight, anger or anxiety.

A major factor setting a person up for stress overwhelm reactions involves abusive situations.  These can be from childhood abuse — verbal, physical, and/or sexual.  Such experiences so traumatize the child, that the whole experience is imprinted into the child’s mind and body.  When we look at the hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) pattern of a person who has endured such traumatic experiences, we see that they tend to still experience very intense reactions to stress in their life even many years later in adulthood.  Their adrenal glands tend to be highly sensitized and reactive to stress.  One of the major outcomes of such intense adrenal gland reactions to stress is that they can’t retain adequate magnesium reserves in their cells and tissues.  They seem to be constantly deficient in magnesium which is the major anti-stress nutrient.  A vicious cycle is set up.  Stress depletes magnesium and magnesium deficiency contributes to more and more intense stress reactions.  This explains why people who have an abuse history are at high risk for stress overwhelm.  It is as if their history of abuse has programmed them for stress overwhelm.  Quite often, such a person is drawn into abusive relationships in their teens or adult relationships.

When drug and alcohol abuse are added by the abused person, such a combination of substances will further deplete their low magnesium levels to a point at which they easily lose emotional and behavioral controls with the slightest frustration or irritation.  They can explode into a blind violent rage that frightens people around them.  It is baffling to others to see and experience such intense stress overwhelm reactions that don’t make any sense to most people.  Psychiatrist and other “mental health” professionals like to “diagnose” stress overwhelm reactions with a mental health diagnosis that often results in prescribing toxic psychotropic drugs.  Such a prescription drug approach is likely to make things much worse for the person experiencing stress overwhelm.

Even when a person doesn’t have a history of childhood abuse, anything that will substantially cause them to lose large quantities of magnesium can eventually set them up for stress overwhelm.  If teens and young adults begin to drink a lot of alcohol, that can start a major loss of magnesium in their cells and tissues.  Eventually, they can reach a point of stress overwhelm.  Then, if they are also abusing stimulant drugs along with high alcohol consumption, that combination can really accelerate magnesium loss, making them highly reactive to stressful situations.  Stress overwhelm is more likely to occur.

Stress overwhelm in one person can often destroy relationships because it is extremely difficult to live with someone who is constantly going into stress overwhelm, losing emotional and behavioral control.  When other stressful factors in life are added to the situation, stress overwhelm can have devastating consequences.  Financial and money issues are experienced by a great many people.  Job or school situations can also be highly stressful.  Health problems can add to a person’s stress level.  Death and loss of a loved one is one of the major stresses in life.  Insomnia and sleep disturbances exacerbate the problems related to stress overwhelm.

In my next blog, I will discuss ways that people can learn to deal with stress overwhelm.  Prevention is the preferred way to deal with it.  But, when it has already begun to occur, there are stress reduction interventions that can be quite helpful in reducing the frequency and damaging effects of stress overwhelm.



From experience

Stress Overwhelm: What We Can Learn from a HTMA and the Mineral System

A hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) is an excellent lab tool for assessing how a person is being impacted by stress. The mind/body stress response reflects both psychological and physical reactions that can have a profound effect on a person’s health. There are reciprocal relationships between the mind/body stress response and a person’s nutrient mineral system.

The parts of a hair nutrient mineral pattern that are most significant in regard to behavior and emotional control are (1) a very high stress ratio – sodium to potassium (Na/K) and (2) a high copper level with a very low zinc level resulting in a very low zinc/copper ratio.  Individuals with this type of mineral pattern often are susceptible to what I call “stress overwhelm”. Since the stress response is a survival mechanism operating at a sub-cortical level as a strong reflex response, no matter how intelligent or well educated such an individual is, the person can still experience sudden explosive outbursts in reaction to frustration or irritation.  The person usually has a very low frustration tolerance until such time as the nutrient mineral system is brought into a healthier balance. In the case of a woman with a very high copper level and very low zinc level, she would have the very intense emotional and behavioral reactions that are more commonly observed in teen girls who have severe PMS reactions. The intense explosive reactions are episodic and subside very quickly. As the woman’s stress reaction is reduced in intensity, these episodic explosive reactions are likely to become much less frequent as her stress related nutrient mineral system becomes much better balanced. The prognosis is usually good when these issues are reflected in a HTMA, but it will take time to correct the severe nutrient mineral imbalances affecting the intensity of her stress response.  There is often a vicious cycle operating with these conditions.  

Stress accelerates the magnesium “burn rate”, i.e. how quickly magnesium becomes depleted and deficient in a person’s cells and tissues.  As magnesium becomes more and more depleted, there is less magnesium available to regulate the intensity of a person’s stress response.  This process often accelerates the magnesium burn rate, resulting in a more severe magnesium deficiency.  Anything that accelerates the magnesium burn rate — alcohol, stimulant drugs, stress itself — is likely to undermine a person’s ability to deal with stress and increase the risk for “stress overwhelm.”

Stress also depletes zinc which is needed to control and regulate copper metabolism.  As copper levels build up to excess or toxic levels, especially in the brain, the person is more likely to experience “stress overwhelm.”  This is because copper tends to lower the potassium level in cells and tissues, raising the sodium /potassium stress ratio.  The more that potassium is depleted and becomes deficient in the presence of excess or toxic copper levels, the more intense the person’s reaction to stress is likely to become, resulting in “stress overwhelm.”  Ironically, too much vitamin D and/or calcium supplementation may have a similar effect as copper on the potassium level and the sodium/potassium stress ratio.  A HTMA often indicates how stressed a  person is and how susceptible they would be “stress overwhelm.”

Magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium, and vitamin A are often very effective in quickly reducing the magnitude of the elevated sodium/potassium stress ratio, thus helping the person better manage “stress overwhelm.”   Zinc and vitamin C can help to reduce the excess copper level so that more potassium and magnesium can be retained in cells and tissues.

Stress Overwhelm and Psychological Problems

Rick Malter, Ph.D.

Malter Institute

(c) 2016

Ever since I first studied psychology at the University of Chicago in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, I have seen organized psychiatry expand their diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM) from a thin spiral bound little booklet with a few classical psychological diagnoses to thicker and thicker bound DSM books of hundreds of fabricated “mental illnesses”.   Of course, each newly fabricated “mental illness” needs a new “medication” to “treat” it.  This process has developed into a powerful and highly lucrative marketing scheme for toxic and dangerous psychotropic drugs.  The theory behind these mental illnesses that need drug treatment is that there is supposedly a “chemical imbalance” underlying these mental illnesses that require drug treatment.  But, psychiatry has no lab test for the chemical imbalances that they claim underlies all of these “mental illnesses.”.

Journalist Jon Rappaport has written extensively about organized psychiatry and the business of psychiatric diagnosis that is based on fabricating new “mental illnesses” that need to be treated with new or even some old psychotropic drugs.  Rappaport quotes psychiatrist Dr. Allen Frances describing the lack of a scientific foundation for these DSM “mental illness” diagnoses that are essentially made up by committees of psychiatrists.  In other words, groups of psychiatrists vote on whether they believe that different psychological problems are really mental illnesses or not.  It’s much more of a political process than a scientific one.

To quote Rappaport :” He (Dr. Frances) is the man who was in charge of assembling the previous DSM-IV (1994) edition.  His team expanded the definitions of ADHD and Bipolar, so that many more people would be dosed with toxic and destructive drugs like Valproate, Lithium, and Ritalin.

“Yet Dr. Frances, in a December 2010 Wired interview (“Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness”), stated:  ‘There is no definition of a mental disorder.  It’s bullshit.  I mean, you just can’t define it.’ He actually said that.

“Psychiatry seeks to gain control and domination over the entire area of human behavior, through classification by labels and bogus claims of diagnosis.”

When we stop and think about it, the vast majority of so-called “mental illnesses” such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, anger and rage outbursts can all be related to what I call “stress overwhelm.”   Stress overwhelm produces intense stress reactions — the fight or flight response.  Fight relates to anger and rage, whereas flight relates to anxiety and panic attacks.  It’s also important to note that stress relates to our basic survival mechanism. This mechanism operates at a reflex level so that it is extremely difficult to control with just verbal and cognitive processes.  Psychiatry, Big Pharma, and the media combine to try to convince people that there are such things as “mental illnesses” that need to be dominated, controlled, and “treated” with patented magical toxic chemical compounds that are highly profitable.  By fiat, psychiatry makes “mental illness” sound real and scientific.  Dr. Frances finally debunks this ploy that attempts to make “mental illness” sound real and scientific.

Since so many psychological problems can be related to “stress overwhelm”, is there a lab test for “stress overwhelm?”  Yes, indeed.  A hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) can be used to evaluate how a person is being impacted by stress.  Several minerals measured in a HTMA are clearly related to stress.  Magnesium deficiency and copper toxicity are two of the most common mineral factors contributing to “stress overwhelm.”   These minerals have a strong effect on the ratio of sodium/potassium which is a major regulator of the stress response.  I’ll go into more HTMA explanations in the next blog – I’ll describe what shows up in the hair test and how the “stress overwhelm” can be treated nutritionally using HTMA data as a guide.



Nutrient Mineral Patterns: Everyone Has One


Even though the vital importance of nutrient minerals has been known for decades, for most people, information about minerals has been fragmented and limited. Calcium and sodium are familiar to most people. However, most people are unaware that nutrient minerals are closely interrelated with each other and help to regulate vital health functions — the stress response, heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, blood sugar. nerve transmissions, muscle tone, and energy production within cells.
Forty years ago, my mineral mentors, Drs. Paul Eck and David Watts, began their research into nutrient minerals that were measured in a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA). What they quickly discovered is that the nutrient minerals appear in distinct patterns within a HTMA. In other words, the minerals don’t deposit randomly in the hair follicles. They deposit in meaningful patterns that are closely related to a person’s health condition. The most basic HTMA patterns have to do with a person’s metabolic type — fast or slow. These HTMA patterns are closely related to how a person is impacted by stress. These HTMA patterns also relate to a person’s capacity to produce energy without which, life is a struggle.
Everyone has a nutrient mineral pattern that is easily determined by a HTMA. The extensive HTMA research of Drs. Eck and Watts led them to recognize that nutrient mineral balances were especially important for supporting good health. They also learned that these vital balances can be easily thrown off, increasing a person’s risk for a deterioration of their healthy functioning. Eck and Watts learned that a HTMA could reveal a person’s mineral imbalances that put their health at risk. They also learned that the HTMA could serve as a guide to choosing dietary supplements that could help a person to restore better mineral balances. As vital minerals came into better balance, healthier progress was likely to occur. A person’s energy capacity would increase and they would experience more resilience in dealing with stress in life.

The HTMA research of Eck and Watts took nutrition science to a whole new level.  HTMA patterns and the changes in HTMA patterns over time led them to a much clearer understanding of how these vital nutrient minerals operated within the mind/body’s system.  It became evident that a radical change was needed in thinking about nutrition in general and minerals in particular.   The history of science shows that such fundamental changes in concepts and paradigms are very difficult to bring about.  This is why HTMA still is not widely used.  It requires careful study and an open mind.  Here at the Malter Institute, we have developed the knowledge and expertise to train people to understand and effectively utilize HTMA test results for their own personal use or for their patients and clients.


Minerals and Good Health: Sorting It All Out


Most people are familiar with some minerals. Calcium is well known. So is sodium. Both often appear on the “nutrition facts” list of many food products. But why just limit mineral information to only one or two minerals? How often do you see magnesium listed among the “nutrition facts” lists on a food or beverage package? Or copper? Or potassium?  Who determined which minerals to list and which ones to omit?  What was the thinking or lack of thinking behind such a policy?

Thirty-five years ago, in 1980, I learned the importance of minerals when I was in a severe stress “burn-out” — no energy, mind in a fog, unable to think clearly or to function well.   My medical doctors were baffled.  Their standard blood tests showed nothing of significance.  Fortunately, for me, I had a good friend and colleague, Ken Candelaria, Ph.D., who knew something about minerals and, especially, hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA).  He urged me to get a hair mineral analysis.  When he got the results, he found a simple explanation for my health woes.  Magnesium was so deficient, it short-circuited my energy production, crashed my blood sugar levels, and put me at grave risk for a heart attack.

I started on magnesium and other supplements.  Gradually, I re-built my vital magnesium reserves, re-built my energy pathways, and restored my health and vitality.  I have since learned how vital minerals are to supporting good health and energy, especially magnesium and copper.  The HTMA is a powerful lab test to assess a person’s mineral status and balances.  The HTMA also provides us with a broader and deeper understanding of how our mineral system works to support good energy and health.  The HTMA hits the nutrition bull’s eye.