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13 Signs That Stress Is Killing You

Stress is no longer considered a grave condition but a part of daily life. Stress can take a toll on your health both mentally and physically. Most often we tend to dismiss signs of stress as minor problems. We say 'its just stress'. But the symptoms of stress are not minor at all and can accumulate quietly, turning into serious health problems.

80 per cent of the world's population has reported experiencing stress daily. Many in the age group of 15-25 report to needing help with managing stress [1]. In a way, stress can help you meet challenges and stay focused, alert, and energetic when at a healthy level but, when it crosses the threshold, it can result in anxiety, restlessness, headaches, chest pain, depression, loss of sexual desire, fatigue, anger, etc.

In the current article, we will look at how stress can affect your physical health.

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1. Digestive Issues

Stress affects how food moves through your body which could cause constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, tummy aches, nausea, etc. The rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and surge in hormones could affect your digestive juice production, increasing your chances of heartburn and acidity [2].

Also, when under stress, your liver is pushed to break down more sugar, which can cause high blood sugar levels and if this crosses a certain level you could start suffering from diabetes [3].

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2. Weight Gain

Stress releases a hormone in your body called cortisol which can decrease the rate of metabolism and results in unhealthy weight gain [4]. Stress can also cause you to eat more, causing a craving for foods that have high-calorie content [5].

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3. Increased Risk Of Heart Attack & Stroke

Stress has a devastating effect on your heart health. A study has shown that it increases the risk of heart attack by 30 per cent and also decreases the chances of survival after a heart attack [6]. Likewise, stress causes your heart rate to shoot up and more blood to be pumped through the body to supply enough oxygen to cells to keep up with the spiking action [7].

Your muscles and brain cells require more oxygen to process, leading to high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of getting a stroke [8].

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4. Low Immunity

People who are continuously under stress are more prone to common colds and flu. Stress hormones weaken the immune system and also reduce its ability to respond quickly. You can also see that the body takes more time and energy to recover from illnesses [9].

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5. Loss Of Libido

When you are stressed, your body releases hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine which (in high levels) can cause decreased sex drive [10]. And if your stress is chronic, it will cause changes in the cortisol levels and impact the sex hormones [11].

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6. Weak Memory

Long term stress can decrease the ability of the brain to remember things and to retain information [12]. Stress can affect both long-term and short term memory and disrupt your daily activities.

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7. Headache

Stress and headaches are inter-linked. Stress can cause headache and a headache can make you stressed. High levels of stress can make the blood vessels in your brain throb, causing sharp pain and irritation [13]. Stress can also cause chest pain and body ache.

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8. Nose Bleeds

This is reported in people with extreme high cases of stress. Nose bleeds can happen when your blood pressure rises suddenly without warning. The body's natural defence mechanism is to let out some blood to control your blood pressure [14], thereby causing nose bleeds.

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9. Muscle Stress

When stressed, your muscles are tensed leading to headaches, joint injuries, muscular spasms, back pain, shoulder pain, or full-body aches [15]. It is not advisable to exercise when your muscles are in pain.

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10. Irregular Periods

Studies point out that stress is one of the most common causes of irregular periods in women [16]. Your body's reaction to stress includes changes in the levels of many hormones and affects the balance [17]. Apart from this, the psychological stress can also interfere with your menstrual cycle [18].

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11. Affects Respiratory System

Stress hormones cause havoc in your respiratory system. It can cause rapid breathing as more oxygen-rich blood needs to be transported through the body. If you already suffer from a breathing condition, the symptoms could exacerbate [19].

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12. Hair Loss

Stress can cause hair loss, not just one, but three different types of hair loss [20]. Telogen effluvium, trichotillomania and alopecia areata are the types. Hair loss caused by stress is usually only temporary [21]. Stress can also cause premature greying.

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13. Acne

Stress causes the body to releases a hormone called glucocorticoid which causes acne, pimples, wrinkles and even eczema [22]. While stress alone isn't the cause of acne, studies have pointed out that stress can trigger breakouts and make existing acne issues worse [23].

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are 5 emotional signs of stress?

A. Irritability, decreased desire to have sex, compulsive behaviour, mood swings and anxiety.

Q. What can stress do to a woman's body?

A. Stress increases the amount of a hormone in your body called cortisol, which can lead to overeating and cause your body to store fat and can cause problems when it comes to conceiving.

Q. What organs are affected by stress?

A. Each and every organ in your body can get affected by stress.

Q. How does mental stress affect the body?

A. Chronic stress increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety in some people.

Story first published: Monday, February 10, 2020, 19:00 [IST]