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Since getting engaged, I've learned that 'Bridezilla' is more than just an entertaining reality TV show. Based on my symptoms after my fiance proposed — including insomnia, loss of appetite and more — I started to wonder whether I was developing a true clinical disorder: Bride Anxiety.
I was so burdened by the demand for perfection in every aspect of the wedding and pleasing everyone involved...I began asking the question: "Who is this person?"
It didn't start out that way. The day of the proposal I was calm, serene and completely filled with bliss. But over the next few weeks my euphoria over planning for the big day was less apparent. At times I lost my appetite, would occasionally spend hours on end obsessing over wedding venue options and was up many nights filled with worry. I never imagined this would be my response to what has been one of the happiest moments of my life.
I've since been able to calm down — I think. (With some support from my bridesmaids — thank you girls!). But we all know brides-to-be like this. Which brought me to my quest to find out whether there really is such a thing as bridal stress disorder.
Apparently not, according to Dr. Todd Farchione, master clinician and director of the intensive treatment program at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. In an email he wrote:
Bridal stress is not medically recognized as a disorder. Of course, even positive things in our lives, such as moving, getting married, etc. can cause stress. Depending on how the stress is handled, it could contribute to the emergence of an anxiety or mood disorder.
For instance, it's not uncommon for people to experience an uncued panic attack during a stressful time, such as preparing for a wedding. Or someone who has a tendency to worry may find that the worries become more frequent and difficult to control during a stressful time.
It's not a disorder, Farchione says, because it's stress that's related to a specific event.
"People experience stress over an event, so it's not diagnosable — stress is not in and of itself diagnosable," he said.
"When we diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, we look at the frequencies of the worries, and are they excessive, and the extent to which the person can control the worries. The worrying and the lack of control over the worries has to be present for at least six months or more, and it has to be interfering and distressing for the person."
OK, so maybe bridal stress is not officially recognized by the medical community. But it's still a serious issue many women experience. Francie Elaine, who happens to have been a marriage counselor for 18 years, talked about her stressful time planning her wedding for her second marriage on Brides.com.:
I have been a marriage & family counselor for 18 years, and last month I decided to devote my entire practice to bridal counseling. This is a fairly new concept, not too many licensed professionals doing it. But I feel there is a need! There seems to be so many stressed out brides! My wedding was simple but I worried constantly! It is supposed to be the happiness time of your life, but things can go wrong.
Another woman, in response to her post:
Not only is there pressure out there to have the best. Wedding. Ever. There's also pressure out there to be the happiest. Bride. Ever. I'm already an overly emotional person (I cry at everything) so that pressure to not be anything but happy-go-lucky becomes overwhelming. It took one of my recently married friends telling me "It's okay, there's nothing wrong with you, there's nothing wrong with your relationship, and it's even okay to not enjoy planning the wedding — I couldn't wait for the planning to be over."
"What happens with these events, especially with weddings, is they take on such an importance — part of it is they're so expensive, there's a social aspect to it, everybody's looking at, judging it...these brides-to-be are under a lot of pressure," he said. "It's a tough position to be in."
Farchione offers a few tips for brides getting ready for the big day:
- Keep it in perspective: Try not to make everything into a catastrophe. "I've watched these bridal shows, and I'm sure it presents the worst of these situations, the Bridezillas, but some of the things I hear them say, if I were there I would say, 'Is that really what's going to happen?' Or, 'What if that did, could you manage that?'
- Relaxation techniques: Tried-and-true stress relievers like yoga, exercise and progressivemuscle relaxation (PMR) can help to relieve physical tension induced by stress
- Support: Seek support and advice from other brides.
When it comes to weddings, what are your tips for staying stress-free?
This program aired on August 30, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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