A Five Second Health Secret Your Doctor Will Never Tell You

Originally Published in Psychology Today

Doctors treat illnesses with complex, high-tech solutions and ever more sophisticated drugs.  But what if there were a solution to complex, longstanding health problems that’s free, fast, fun and immediately available to all?

This video shows how to quickly transform a blue face into a smiley face.

As a physician, I have seen many patients with lower back pain, shoulder pain, sore throats, recurrent infections, chronic fatigue or depression, to name just a few illnesses. The ultimate cause of all these ailments, according to a 20-year study at the Kaiser Health System, is frequently chronic stress.  And, according to Chapman and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical School, one of the biggest causes of this stress is bottled-up emotions such as rage, fear or hurt.

I know this firsthand, from when I had chronic fatigue, lower back pain and depression.  My late husband Steve had brain cancer and I was suffering acute emotional distress from witnessing both Steve’s pain and his exhausting, daily struggle against cancer. I knew there was no cure and that he was dying, but I kept this awful knowledge to myself.

I also didn’t want to cry in front of Steve.  I needed to be pleasant and cheerful, to lift his spirits and to make the little time he had left as enjoyable as possible.

But I was very depressed and also angry at life and the universe (how could the universe hurt such a wonderful man who had always spent countless hours helping friends and family).  I tried conventional ways of dealing with stress like listening to music, reading, deep breathing, vigorous exercise, meditation and yoga.  Yet, those ways were not enough.

I felt intense pressure, like the inside of the pressure cooker I had just bought to cook Steve’s favorite dishes, such as chicken with barbecue sauce.

I was on the edge of taking antidepressants, sleeping pills and pain pills when, preparing chicken in the pressure cooker one night, and in a hurry to get dinner on the table, I used the “quick release” option to vent steam in one quick rush. It hit me immediately that an explosive outburst of “steam” was exactly what I needed to vent my pain, sadness, frustration and helplessness.

So I started practicing my Scream Off Stress technique (SOS) everyday.  Each day, I drove to a place where nobody was around, made sure all the car windows were closed, and screamed my anger, my frustration and my pain out.  This technique was free and fast.  It kept me sane and allowed me to take care of my husband until the end of his life without using any antidepressant, sleeping pills or pain pills, which have so many side effects.  Yet, would any doctor have prescribed that treatment?  No!  I had to find this out by myself.

Despite being a physician—or perhaps because I’m a physician—I’ve never trusted everything that other physicians said.  I’ve always asked myself,  “Isn’t there a simpler, faster and less expensive way to achieve the same result?”

I have learned that in some cases, there are indeed other solutions.

Scream Off Stress is one of them.  It is a way to vent steam from your stressed out frustrated or angry body.

Daily stress chronically elevates adrenaline levels, and increases risk of heart attack and stroke.  Chronic stress also increases cortisol levels, which elevates blood sugar, depresses the immune system and increases the risk of infections and psychiatric illnesses.

The bottom line is that when stress has nowhere to go, it damages the body.

When you are about to explode from bottled up stress, the key is to go to an isolated place where nobody can see you or hear you (your car can be such a place) and scream out your truth, scream out your stress, your anger, your frustration and your pain.  Get as much energy out as you can as fast as you can.  This won’t hurt anybody physically nor will it hurt anybody’s feelings since you are the only person there.  It will decrease your adrenaline and cortisol secretion.  It will allow your blood pressure, blood sugar, blood sodium and potassium, heart rate, etc to come back to normal levels.  Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Calafiura asserts that screaming also elevates endorphins.

That’s why, after you scream, you’ll feel so much better and will be more able to relate to people in a pleasant way.

This can apply to many everyday stressors, such as those that arise with your job, your spouse, your kids or your finances.

I am not the only one who advocates the benefits of venting. A recent study of HIV patients revealed that “active coping strategies” that included venting of emotions improved the strength of the immune system (in this case, Natural Killer T cells). And Arthur Janov in “The Primal Scream,” described the day that changed his life when he heard “an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor”. Based on that experience, he now uses primal scream therapy to treat clients who have repressed memories and feelings after encouraging them to re-live them.

My technique uses scream too but I get patients to scream in immediately stressful situations.  Also, as a physician, my ultimate goal is not to heal the psyche, as Janov does, but to heal the body through the psyche.

I find that it’s best to scream soon after the initial stressful event, as shown in the video in the link above.  The longer you wait to scream, the more emotional pressure and stress will develop and the more destruction is wrought on your body.  And, the longer you wait to scream, the longer it will take for your body to get back to normal.

If you take this timeout Scream Off Stress (SOS) soon after the stressful event, you will immediately feel emotional relief, and most likely, physical relief from stress-driven illness as well.

Screaming isn’t an expensive new drug, surgical treatment or other modern wonder of science, but it can be far more effective than all of those high-tech treatments combined for many common maladies.

Oh, and, other than a little hoarseness, scream therapy has no side effects.

So, there really is a treatment that’s effective, quick, cathartic, free and free of side effects.

It’s enough to make you scream—with joy—isn’t it?

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

  • Chockalingam A, Venkatesan S, Dorairajan S, Mooorthy C, Chockalingam V, Subramaniam T. Estimation of subjective stress in acute myocardial infarction. J Postgrad Med. 2003;49:207–10. [PubMed]
  • Tennant C. life stress, social support and coronary heart disease. Aust NZ J Psychiat. 1999;33:636–41. [PubMed]
  • Rosengren A, Orth Gomer K, Wedel H, Wihelsem L. Stressful life events, social support and mortality in men born in 1933. Brit Medi J. 1993;307:1102–5. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Byrne DG. Personal determinants of life event stress and myocardial infarction. Psychother Psychosom. 1983;40:106–114. [PubMed]
  • Dembroski TM, MacDaugall JM, Williams RB, et al. Components of type A, hostility and anger in relationship to angiographic findings. Psychosom Med. 1985;47:219–33. [PubMed]
  • Haynes SG, Feinleib M, Kannel WG. The relationship of psychosocial factors to coronary heart disease in the Framingham study III : Eight-year incidence of coronary heart disease. Am J Epidemiol. 1980;111:37–58. [PubMed]
  • Friedman M, Rosenman R, Carroll V. Changes in serum cholesterol and blood clotting time in men subjected to cycle variations of occupational stress. Circulation. 1958;17:852–64. [PubMed]
  • Dreyfuss F, Czaczkes J. Blood cholesterol and uric acid of healthy medical students under stress of examination. Arch Intern Med. 1959;103:708–11. [PubMed]
  • Stenstrom U, Wikby A, Hornquist JO, Andersson PO. Recent life events, gender and the control of diabetes mellitus. Gen Hosp Psychiat. 1993;15:82–8. [PubMed]
  • Glaser R, Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Malarkey WB, Sheridan JF. The influence of psychological stress on the immune system to vaccines. Ann NY Acad Sci. 1998;840:649–655. [PubMed]
  • Cohen S, Tyrrell DAJ, Smith AP. Psychological stress in humans and susceptibility to the common cold. New Engl J Med. 1991;325:606–612. [PubMed]
  • Paykel ES. Contribution of life events to causation of psychiatric illness. Psychol Med. 1978;8:245–253. [PubMed]
  • Vincent K, Roscentock H. The relationship between stressful life events and hospitalized adolescent psychiatric patients. J Clin Psychiat. 1979;40:262–264. [PubMed]
  • Andrew G, Tenant C. Being upset and becoming ill: An appraisal of the relationship between life events and physical illness. Med J Australia. 1978;1:324–327. [PubMed]
  •  Azar B. Probing links between stress and cancer. APA Monitor Online. 1999;30:1–4. ( http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun99/stress.html)
  • Arthur Junov “The Primal Scream” 1970
  • Cummings NA, VandenBos GR. The twenty years Kaiser-Permanente experience with psychotherapy and medical utilization: implications for national health policy and national health insurance. Health Policy Q. 1981 (2):159–175.
  • http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00694/Stress.html
  • http://www.jpsychores.com/article/S0022-3999%2813%2900303-6/abstract
  • Karl Goodkin, Adriaan P. Visser, Psychoneuroimmunology: Stress, Mental Disorders, and Health, American Psychiatric Publishing; 1st edition (March 2000)
  • http://gimundo.com/news/article/yelling-can-help-your-health/

Download A Free Excerpt


Subscribe to get a sneak peek of my new book, The Listening Cure.

You'll also receive periodic updates from me about the launch of the book.

Check Your Email for Download Link

Download A Free Excerpt


Subscribe to get a sneak peek of my new book, The Listening Cure.

Check Your Email for Download Link