STRESS EFFECTS - The American Institute of Stress (2024)

Stress Affects Your Body and Mind

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences everyone experiences it. Anything from everyday responsibilities like feeding your family to more serious life events like a car accident can trigger stress. In immediate, short-term situations, stress can benefit your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations.

Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond; however, if this response continues longer than necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health.

Chronic stress can cause even more symptoms affecting your overall well-being, such as irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, or insomnia.

Central Nervous & Endocrine Systems

Your central nervous system (CNS) controls your “fight or flight” response: In your brain, the hypothalamus tells your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. They rev up your heartbeat and rush blood to the areas that need it most in a crisis (muscles, heart, etc.).

When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to return to normal. If the CNS fails to normalize or the stressor remains, then the response continues.

Respiratory & Cardiovascular Systems

Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster to quickly distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body. If you already have a breathing problem like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it even harder to breathe.

Under stress, your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to your muscles, so you’ll have more strength to take action. But this also raises your blood pressure.

Frequent or chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, which causes your heart to work harder. When the heart works too hard for too long, you are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Digestive System

Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar to give you more energy. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this surge. Chronic stress may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can also upset your digestive system. An increase in stomach acid may produce heartburn or acid reflux. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers, but it can increase your risk for them and cause existing ulcers to act up.

Stress can also affect the way food moves through your body, leading to diarrhea or constipation. You might also experience nausea, vomiting, or a stomachache.

Muscular System

Your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury when you’re stressed. They tend to release again once you relax, but if you’re constantly under stress, your muscles may not get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Over time, this can set off an unhealthy cycle if you stop exercising and turn to pain medication for relief.

Sexuality & Reproductive System

Stress is exhausting for both the body and mind. It’s not unusual to lose your desire when you’re under constant stress. While short-term stress may cause men to produce more of the male hormone testosterone, this effect doesn’t last.

If stress continues for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also increase risk of infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.

For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.

Immune System

Stress stimulates the immune system. This can help you heal wounds and defend against infections. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s ability to fight illness. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to the flu, a common cold, and other viral illnesses. Stress can also increase your recovery time for an illness or injury.

  1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching, or pain
  2. Gritting or grinding teeth
  3. Stuttering or stammering
  4. Tremors or trembling of lips/hands
  5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
  7. Ringing, buzzing or popping sounds
  8. Frequent blushing or sweating
  9. Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
  11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
  12. Rashes, itching, hives, goose bumps
  13. Unexplained or frequent allergy attacks
  14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
  15. Excess belching, flatulence
  16. Constipation, diarrhea, loss of control
  17. Difficulty breathing, frequent sighing
  18. Sudden attacks of life- threatening panic
  19. Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  20. Frequent urination
  21. Diminished sexual desire or performance
  22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
  23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
  24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  25. Increased or decreased appetite
  26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  28. Trouble learning new information
  29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
  30. Difficulty in making decisions
  31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
  32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
  33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
  34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
  35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
  36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
  37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
  38. Increased number of minor accidents
  39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
  41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
  42. Rapid or mumbled speech
  43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
  44. Problems in communication or sharing
  45. Social withdrawal and isolation
  46. Constant fatigue and weakness
  47. Frequent use of nonprescription drugs
  48. Weight gain or loss without diet
  49. Increased smoking or drug/alcohol use
  50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying

STRESS EFFECTS - The American Institute of Stress (2)

STRESS EFFECTS - The American Institute of Stress (3)

How Stress Affects Sleep

26%

of women report trouble sleeping at least once a week compared to only 16% of men

19%

of individuals ages 25-64 admit to losing sleep a few nights per week due to stress

54%

say that stress or anxiety increased their anxiety about falling asleep at night

52%

of men and 42% of women reported that stress affected their ability to remain focused the next day

If You're Looking for Answers, You Have to Ask the Right Questions.

Start by taking one of our scientifically validated, AIScertified stress assessments for just $20. These tests have been developed to identify your personal stressors and what you can do to control your stress so it doesn’t control you.

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STRESS EFFECTS - The American Institute of Stress (2024)
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