When does stress become a medical issue?

When you are becoming unable to cope with it and can’t see how it could change. Symptoms like anxious thoughts together with physical symptoms such as palpitations, butterflies in the stomach and insomnia, if they have gone on for more than a week, all indicate that the stress has caused an anxiety disorder.

What can be done before an anxiety problem occurs, and to deal with it if it goes too far?

Step back from the stress if you can and take a break for a defined period of say a couple of days or a week to get your equilibrium back. Stay physically healthy but don’t obsess about fitness. A lot of people at high pressure institutions feel they have to be perfect all the time. Remember that such an ambition is impossible for anyone to achieve. If it does go further, we can help you with symptom control, with judicious use of medication, and help you address the underlying causes of the anxiety with cognitive and other therapies. Priory is able to see most people very quickly, within a day or two, while the NHS concentrates on those with severe mental illness and has a waiting list.

What is drug dependency and what should be done to take the first steps to tackle it?

Basically it’s an addiction to a drug. An addiction occurs when you can’t stop doing it. You also notice that you need to take more of it to get the same level of high and that you get withdrawal symptoms when you stop doing it. It takes over your life and becomes more important than family and friends, work and social life. That all applies to behavioural addictions like gambling and sex as well as to chemical addiction.Seek help as soon as someone tells you that you have a problem. Accept it for what it is and listen to friends when they tell you that you have a problem. Then get help from a professional. This will normally involve some form of therapy but the kind of treatment will depend on the nature and severity of the addiction.

What should be done in the wider world to prevent drug dependency occurring?

There needs to be a wider availability of education and treatment programmes. But even before that the most common and damaging drugs of addiction need to be harder to obtain. The most effective way to do that is to put up the price of alcohol, as that’s still our favourite drug and the one that does most social harm.