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What Functional Medicine Doctors Are Getting Wrong About Stress

Ok, I know it's not all functional medicine doctors, nor is it all doctors in general. But, when I saw a prominent functional medicine doctor get stress completely wrong, I was extra shocked, because of how up to date I thought they were with mind-body health.

But yesterday, I saw a tweet by one of the leading Functional Medicine physicians, Dr. Mark Hyman, that I could not ignore.

As soon as I saw this on my social media feed, I yelled out loud, "NO!" I buried my face in a pillow, yelling into it incoherently. The yelling turned into growling, which my husband still could not decipher, but he knew something struck a nerve hard.

I frequently, as in multiple times a day, see memes on social media that are flat out wrong about stress physiology. (If you're in the mood for a rant about that, listen to Delivering Miracles® episode 137.) Most of the time, I roll my eyes and scroll past.

But this one I knew I had to say something about. So I drafted my reply and commented on his post directly:

I agree wholeheartedly that stress is not due to something happening TO us but something happening within us. However, I do believe it is misleading to call stress a thought. The perception of danger occurs in the part of the brain that has no linguistic capability and functions entirely on instinct. By the time we can hear our thoughts about the perceived danger, our body has already gone into survival mode (A.K.A. the stress response is already activated). I think it's an important distinction because it can be assumed mistakenly that if stress is a thought, then thinking positively will make the stress go away, which is not physiologically accurate. And it can be disempowering for people who are living with stress-induced illness and health complications. I love discussing stress physiology (my specialty is as it pertains to pregnancy outcomes), so happy to chat further if you'd like!

I haven't heard from him, and I honestly don't expect to. I don't even think he saw my comment.