Stress is something everyone experiences in their day-to-day lives. From taking on new responsibilities to getting fired or going through major life events, anything can stress us. It’s the invisible pull or unnoticeable emotional responses that travel throughout the body and affect your very being.
What is Stress?
Our body has a fight-or-flight response. When triggered, cortisol is released and panic strikes. Stress is what we call under the umbrella term for feelings of anxiety, grief, panic, loss of self-worth, and any emotion that is negative or debilitating. It’s basically our body’s response to any change that requires response or adjustment.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Stress manifests alongside other health issues and can be responsible for impairing your quality of life in various ways. Sometimes it appears in subtle ways like sudden mild aches and pains while in other cases, it becomes very obvious when you faint from migraines. We’ll be discussing some of the most common symptoms of stress below and tell you what to watch out for.
The emotional signs and symptoms of stress are:
- A frustration that is beyond words, anger, and mood swings.
- Feeling overwhelmed by emotions or a sense of urgency where controlling situations is concerned.
- Being obsessive about gaining or losing control.
- Not being able to stay calm or quiet for long, always having a need to question or debate every action.
- Avoiding social contact and isolating yourself.
- Feeling guilty or feelings of worthlessness and despair.
- Depression and overwhelming anxiety.
The physical signs and symptoms of stress are:
- Loss of libido or low sex drive.
- Incontinence and irregular bowel movements.
- Lack of appetite.
- Premature ejaculation and chronic erectile dysfunction (ED) are physical symptoms of stress in men.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Digestive problems.
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw hard.
- Pain in the chest and other symptoms of stress on the heart like palpitations.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Tension in muscles and aches in bones/joints.
- Dryness in the mouth.
- Having trouble swallowing.
- Lack of energy or demotivation.
The cognitive signs and symptoms of stress are:
- Being worried all the time.
- Memory loss.
- Mental paralysis or getting frozen.
- Impaired judgement.
- Being negative and feeling down about everything.
- Lack of organization and coordination.
- Constant panic.
- Overthinking or blowing things beyond their proportions.
The behavioural signs and symptoms of stress are:
- Using drugs or substance abuse.
- Sudden changes in behaviour towards others.
- Cutting yourself or self-mutilating.
- Consuming alcohol or drinking excessively.
- Procrastinating and escaping work.
- Lack of appetite or overeating tendencies.
- Biting your nails.
- Fidgeting and walking back and forth constantly.
Apart from these, there are a few other symptoms of stress which are generally ignored as they are common:
Having a headache is a symptom of stress. It includes tension headaches which are described as a throbbing sensation on your forehead. It’s almost as if someone is tightly wrapping your forehead with a band. Besides headaches, you may get migraines too and blackout when they become unbearable.
- Low-Quality Sleep
If you sleep a lot and still you feel that you haven’t rested, it might be because of stress. Too much stress leads to sleepless nights and may cause insomnia too.
- Colds and Flu
Your immune system response lowers when your stress levels are high and vice versa. This means you’ll be more prone to getting a cold or flu. You may also fall sick more often than you expect.
- Clouded Judgement
Anxiety is healthy when it’s in small amounts since it’s your instinct to survive, but if you’re experiencing anxious feelings for no reason or are feeling overwhelmed, it might be because of stress. Too much anxiety leads to what we call ‘fuzzy thinking’ or clouded judgement. You’ll have a hard time making the right calls when critical situations arise. The clinical term for excess anxiety is generalised anxiety disorder.
- Loss of Interest in Sex
Sex is a form of self-expression and sharing affection with your partner. When you go through chronic stress, you may feel a sort of disconnection with your partner. This leads to a loss of interest or a low sex drive, thus affecting your libido and sexual performance.
- Changes in Behaviour
You may notice yourself being less social or not willing to be friendly and open with others. Maybe you even withdraw from social settings and stay locked up in your room. All these are linked to overwhelming stress.
- Getting Injured a Lot
Being clumsy, having sloppy hand-eye coordination, slipping too often, and being prone to accidents are some of the signs of stress. If you fracture your foot, you will feel a pain that might lessen when you rest, and increase when moving. If you exercise too much due to stress, you might fail to notice how much strain you’re exerting on your body. This could lead to fractures or stress your bones and joints.
- Feeling Like a Victim
Sometimes you might feel that the entire world is against you no matter what you do. Your simple, everyday tasks would become extremely hard – like getting up from the bed, pouring a cup of coffee, or reporting to your boss. You would feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick and constantly complaint, even when someone tries to comfort you. At the end of the day, you drive others away with constant pessimism and negativity. This is a clear sign of stress and indicates that you need a time-out or some time to self-reflect and relax.
- Suicidal Actions
In extreme cases of stress, people often end up cutting or self-mutilating themselves. You may initially derive pleasure from the pain, but it is in fact, an unhealthy way of coping. The severity of cutting progress when left unchecked and in severe cases, people commit suicide. Cutting yourself is a sign/symptom of stress – like a red flag.
Of course, these are some generalised signs, but below we’ve covered what you must look out for if you are stressed.
Consequences of Long-term Stress
Stress doesn’t stop with the short-term effects. If you leave it as is and don’t take steps to remedy how you feel, you’re going to have some long-term consequences. Here is a list of the following effects that could happen:
1. Sexual Dysfunction
In case of stress, men may experience chronic ED and low self-esteem when it comes to sexual performance in bed. They may also ejaculate prematurely or lose interest in sex altogether. Women may feel a loss of libido and you won’t feel pleasure when it comes to orgasms.
2. Cardiovascular Problems
If you have high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, or blood pressure issues, then being stressed is bad for you. This is because stress can raise your blood pressure and fasten your heartbeat. In extreme cases, if the health factors are right, it leads to the onset of stroke or sudden heart attacks.
3. Unhealthy Habits
Ultimately, the biggest pitfall that happens to those with chronic stress is the development of unhealthy habits. This could mean hitting the bar too often, skipping work when it’s critical, a hostility towards co-workers or just working quietly and not interacting at all. The stressed person may become socially withdrawn and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. In severe cases, they may also pick up fights with strangers and get in trouble for no reason.
Obesity is a clear indicator of stress. When a person is stressed, and don’t have any healthy outlets, they might end up eating too much. Over time, this form of eating gets mistaken for developing love towards food. And before they know it, they end up gaining a lot of weight. Too much weight gain leads to other health complications such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and more, which ultimately leads to death or reduced life expectancy when left unchecked.
5. Skin and Hair Problems
The long term effects of stress also include hair fall, acne, and eczema. Skin and hair issues pop up when one is stressed for a lot long-term.
6. Digestive Problems
Symptoms of stress like nausea or vomiting, bloating, heartburn, and mouth ulcers may cause difficulty in swallowing, chewing, drinking, and eating food. Sometimes, people may also experience indigestion and constipation.
Not everybody responds to stress in the same way. Some people thrive under pressure and may not notice it. But it is important to realise that stress is detrimental to your overall wellbeing when you don’t take note of it. This is why practising some relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, some form of art, and mindfulness helps. If you feel stressed, carve out some time to talk to friends, socialise, and don’t isolate yourself.
As they say, don’t bottle up your emotions; share how you feel – because there will be people who can help you put an end to your misery. If you don’t have someone to talk to, you can attend therapy sessions or counselling for additional advice and help.