Chronic Stress

Signs of Stress

Chronic stress is defined as a "state of prolonged tension from internal or external stressors, which may cause various physical manifestations – e.g., asthma, back pain, arrhythmias, fatigue, headaches, HTN, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and suppress the immune system". Chronic stress takes a more significant toll on your body than acute stress does. It can raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contribute to infertility, and hasten the aging process. For example, results of one study demonstrated that individuals who reported relationship conflict lasting one month or longer have a greater risk of developing illness and show slower wound healing. Similarly, the effects that acute stressors have on the immune system may be increased when there is perceived stress and/or anxiety due to other events. For example, students who are taking exams show weaker immune responses if they also report stress due to daily hassles. While responses to acute stressors typically do not impose a health burden on young, healthy individuals, chronic stress in older or unhealthy individuals may have long-term effects that are detrimental to health.


SIGNS OF STRESS - may be COGNITIVE, EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL or BEHAVIORAL.


COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimistic approach or thoughts
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Indigestion
  • Changes in blood glucose
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Irregular periods

BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)