fbpx

Effects of Stress: 7 Ways Stress Can Damage You Physically

physical effects of stressEffects of Stress

Stress takes its toll in countless ways. It is commonly found to be at the root of many emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. Stress can also cause physical damage, which is one of the more serious effects of stress.

When a person is stressed, a physical reaction is triggered. The body’s natural response to stress is a release of chemicals designed to protect. This infusion of stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol) prepares a person to fight or flee the stressful circumstance. Stress responses are natural and help a person rise to a challenge by enhancing focus, alertness, and energy level. However, chronic exposure to stress can lead to a variety of physical stress-related symptoms and illnesses.

Physical Effects of Stress:

 

1. Developmental Problems: When a child’s brain is exposed to heightened levels of stress, the developing brain itself can be altered and damaged by the stress hormones. This natural reaction of the body can result in a lifetime of emotional and behavioral problems. These are often associated with improper development of brain structures like the hippocampus, thalamus, and amygdala.

2. Aches and Pains: Not surprisingly, migraine sufferers commonly associate stress with their migraines. The pain doesn’t always stop at the head, either. Some people “carry stress” on their shoulders, causing prolonged tension in their neck, shoulder and back muscles. This causes a variety of aches and pains that are common to those responding to long-term stressful circumstances.

3. Rising Blood Pressure: Short-term increases in blood pressure are expected in response to stress. Chronic responses to stress are thought to contribute to hypertension. This increases the chances of kidney failure, stroke, and heart attack or even heart failure.

4. Heart Ailments: Stress is a double-whammy to the heart. First, a stress response resulting in overly competitive, impatient, or hostile behaviors increases the likelihood of developing a cardiovascular disease. Second, while comfort foods high in fat and salt are often craved to sooth the soul, these foods aren’t good for heart health.

5. Bowel Movement Troubles: While certain foods, medications, bacteria, and viruses are known to cause diarrhea, stress responses are thought to create, if not exacerbate, conditions leading to diarrhea. Because stress impedes relaxation, extending to the bowels, constipation can also result from stress responses.

While more research is needed to establish the connection between the brain, stress hormones, and the gut, stress is often thought to be a contributing factor when it comes to diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and constipation.

6. Skin Ailments: While the cause of some skin problems is not always known, stress is thought to aggravate, if not cause, some cases of acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Unexplained, uncomfortable skin rashes commonly seem to be associated with stressful circumstances.

7. Immune System Problems: When the body’s natural stress response suppresses a person’s immune system, the person is left with a higher susceptibility to a variety of ailments and illnesses. Allergy attacks are more common or more severe, catching a common cold is easier, and arthritis may flare up. A person whose immune system is challenged is also obviously more susceptible to infections.

Life is stressful. Each of us will encounter stress as part of living. Fortunately, human bodies are designed to deal with stress, even occasional extreme stress. However, repeated or chronic exposure to circumstances eliciting the body’s natural stress response can have long-term, negative physical consequences. Most of these effects of stress and physical problems can be alleviated by taking action to change the circumstances, or to change the response to those circumstances.

If these problems suggest stress is a factor in your life, take a look at the circumstances causing the stress and make an effort to reduce the pressure surrounding the situation however possible. These problems will not go away on their own. If you find yourself unable to control the stress in your life, contacting a therapist can be a great first step.

Sometimes, chronic stress can be a side-effect of a traumatic incident or long-term exposure to something traumatic, whether abuse or more subtle, chronic neglect or lack of safety. Without safety in the environment or in our relationships, our bodies stay on high alert, which can be another cause of long-term stress.

Sometimes, chronic stress can be a side-effect of a traumatic incident or long-term exposure to something traumatic, whether abuse or chronic neglect or lack of safety. Without safety in the environment or in our relationships, our bodies stay on high alert, which can be another cause of long-term stress.

Sometimes, chronic stress can be a side-effect of a traumatic incident or long-term exposure to something traumatic, whether abuse or more subtle, chronic neglect or lack of safety. Without safety in the environment or in our relationships, our bodies stay on high alert, which can be another cause of long-term stress.

How Therapy Can Help

A therapist can help you cope with the effects of stress in your life and identify ways to reduce the sources of stress of stress where possible. Sometimes this involves finding new solutions to old problems, looking at situations differently, or processing your emotions. In other cases, this might involve healing deeper anxieties and fears stemming from past trauma. Find out more about our stress management counseling services.

If you or someone you know is struggling with stress, help is available.Contact one of our Counselors. Our therapists in Houston can help you or your loved one recover. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to help you!

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

Sign up to be notified of group and workshop dates.


Comments are closed.