Friday, March 17, 2023

How Does Stress Affect Your Health

Where Might I Spot The Physical Signs Of Stress

How stress affects your body – Sharon Horesh Bergquist

The immune systemStress initially inhibits the immune system the chemicals our body releases to deal with immediate threat arent designed to keep us healthy long-term. People affected by chronic stress can find their immune system affected, making them susceptible to colds, flu and other infections.

The liverOur liver gives us a boost of glucose when were stressed, enabling us to physically respond to stressors. Long-term, this constant release increases our risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and can make it hard for us to maintain a healthy weight.

DigestionOur guts are surprisingly sensitive organs, and respond to hormone imbalances, stress, and many physical and mental health conditions with pain, bloating, and sometimes changes in bowel habit.

Nervous systemChronic stress affects dopamine levels, which is one of the reasons long-term stress makes us more vulnerable to mental illness. It can particularly make us seek short-term rewards like sugary, fatty or salty foods, affecting our weight and overall health.

SkinEven our skin responds to stress, with inflammation and worsening of skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis.

HeadachesThe release of stress hormones can cause changes in the blood vessels around the brain, causing tension headaches and migraines.

Need More Help Or Guidance

If youre having a hard time identifying whats causing your stress, or the effects arent going away, its time to seek help. Your doctor can work with you to identify causes and discuss coping techniques. They might also refer you to a licensed therapist or a professional counselor who can help you pinpoint and possibly eliminate sources of stress.And if constant stress leaves you with sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, get help immediately.

Listen to your body, Dr. Campbell says. And when it tells you its under stress, or you need help coping, pay attention to that message, so you can enjoy a long, healthy and high-quality life.

Geisinger Health Plan may refer collectively to Geisinger Health Plan, Geisinger Quality Options Inc., and Geisinger Indemnity Insurance Company, unless otherwise noted. Geisinger Gold Medicare Advantage HMO, PPO, and HMO D-SNP plans are offered by Geisinger Health Plan/Geisinger Indemnity Insurance Company, health plans with a Medicare contract. Continued enrollment in Geisinger Gold depends on annual contract renewal. Geisinger Health Plan Kids and Geisinger Health Plan Family are offered by Geisinger Health Plan in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services . Geisinger Health Plan is part of Geisinger, an integrated health care delivery and coverage organization.

The Effects Of Stress

While stress can be a positive process such as when it motivates us to complete a task or meet a deadline, it often has a negative effect.

Stress can cause us to feel overloaded, overwhelmed and for want of a better word stressed.Occasional stress generally does not result in long term or chronic health problems, but experiencing stress over a prolonged period can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health.It can lower your bodys ability to respond to illness by affecting the immune system, which can result in frequent colds and infections.It can also result in cardiovascular disease, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.Ongoing stress can result in a person withdrawing from friends, family and others and lead to serious mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Read Also: How To Deal With Post Traumatic Stress Triggers

How Stress Affects Sleep

This infographic from Insider Living shows 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 due to stress a few nights per week.
  • 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.

Stress Management: What Can You Do About It

The Dangerous Effects of Stress
  • Stress is a fact of life. A 2017 American Psychological Association survey found that a whopping 71% of respondents reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress over the past month. And stressors from the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.
  • Sometimes we stress over good things, like a long line at a brunch spot, a new job, an upcoming wedding or a new baby. And other times, its over not-so-good things like being sick, working too much or family drama.

Also Check: How To Get Time Off Work For Stress And Anxiety

Inflammation Cytokine Production And Mental Health

In addition to its effects on physical health, prolonged proinflammatory cytokine production may also adversely affect mental health in vulnerable individuals. During times of illness , proinflammatory cytokines feed back to the CNS and produce symptoms of fatigue, malaise, diminished appetite, and listlessness, which are symptoms usually associated with depression. It was once thought that these symptoms were directly caused by infectious pathogens, but more recently, it has become clear that proinflammatory cytokines are both sufficient and necessary to generate sickness behavior .

Sickness behavior has been suggested to be a highly organized strategy that mammals use to combat infection . Symptoms of illness, as previously thought, are not inconsequential or even maladaptive. On the contrary, sickness behavior is thought to promote resistance and facilitate recovery. For example, an overall decrease in activity allows the sick individual to preserve energy resources that can be redirected toward enhancing immune activity. Similarly, limiting exploration, mating, and foraging further preserves energy resources and reduces the likelihood of risky encounters . Furthermore, decreasing food intake also decreases the level of iron in the blood, thereby decreasing bacterial replication. Thus, for a limited period, sickness behavior may be looked upon as an adaptive response to the stress of illness.

What Are The Signs Of Stress

How you might feel

If the stress is long-lasting, you may notice your sleep and memory are affected, your eating habits change, or you feel less inclined to exercise.

Some research has also linked long-term stress to gastrointestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or stomach ulcers, as well as conditions like cardiovascular disease.

Read Also: How To Manage Stress And Anxiety At Work

Surprising Ways Stress Can Affect Your Body

Everyone experiences stress, but not everyone experiences it in the same way. While stress may be best known for taking a toll on the mind, sometimes physical symptoms are your bodys way of telling you that your brain is under too much stress.

Patients come in with real physical symptoms, but they arent caused by any illness, says Loretta Howitt, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanentes Los Angeles Medical Center. Stress is the underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

Whether you have physical symptoms, mental and emotional symptoms, or both, finding healthy ways to manage stress can help you find relief.

Common physical signs of stress

Even if you dont feel frazzled, your body could be sending you subtle signs that its time to address your stress. When in doubt, talk to your doctor to rule out any physical health issues. But if these symptoms sound familiar, its possible that stress is to blame:

Dry mouth and trouble swallowing Stress can slow down the production of saliva, which can cause dry mouth and make it difficult or uncomfortable to swallow.

Hair loss Hair falls out naturally when the hair follicle moves from the growth cycle to the resting cycle. Stress can disrupt this pattern and cause more follicles to enter the resting cycle at once leading to increased, more noticeable hair loss.

Upset stomach Stress can cause gastrointestinal symptoms of all types, including abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.

Stressors During Childhood And Adolescence And Their Psychological Sequelae

What is stress and how can it affect your health?

The most widely studied stressors in children and adolescents are exposure to violence, abuse , and divorce/marital conflict . also provide an excellent review of the psychological consequences of such stressors. Psychological effects of maltreatment/abuse include the dysregulation of affect, provocative behaviors, the avoidance of intimacy, and disturbances in attachment . Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have higher levels of both general distress and major psychological disturbances including personality disorders . Childhood abuse is also associated with negative views toward learning and poor school performance . Children of divorced parents have more reported antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression than their peers . Adult offspring of divorced parents report more current life stress, family conflict, and lack of friend support compared with those whose parents did not divorce . Exposure to nonresponsive environments has also been described as a stressor leading to learned helplessness .

Exposure to intense and chronic stressors during the developmental years has long-lasting neurobiological effects and puts one at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders, aggressive dyscontrol problems, hypo-immune dysfunction, medical morbidity, structural changes in the CNS, and early death .

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Are Student Loans Causing You Financial Stress

Student loan debt is another concern that is rapidly increasing. Student loan debt topples credit card debt for Americans and it is now the second largest form of debt in the country. Recent college graduates spend tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes that they will graduate into the work force and begin a lucrative career in their field. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many twenty-somethings. In fact, according to, about one-third of millennials regret going to college because of the debt they’ve found themselves in upon graduating. It’s becoming all too common a story that a student graduates, cannot find a job in their field , and is required to make monthly payments on their loans that they cannot afford. The average student has $37k in debt. These graduates had very little time to save in their college years, and are now responsible for their own bills which also need to be paid in order to survive. Talk about stress!

Dont Let Stress Impact Your Health

If you have experienced one or more effects above, we invite you to take

our health risk assessment. Our health risk assessment uses identifiable health information to help you determine your risk factors for chronic illnesses and what preventive health screenings can enable you to learn if you are at risk for vascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, and other chronic illnesses.

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Chronic Worry And Stress

However, when we keep our bodies constantly in the fight or flight response with worry and stress, it can negatively affect virtually every organ system in the body. According to the National Institutes of Health . Prolonged stress has been shown to cause numerous health problems including:

  • Respiratory problems and heavy breathing
  • Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema

Do Women React To Stress Differently Than Men Do

How Stress Affects the Health of Our Body

Yes, studies show that women are more likely than men to experience symptoms of stress. Women who are stressed are more likely than men who are stressed to experience depression and anxiety.21 Experts do not fully know the reason for the differences, but it may be related to how mens and womens bodies process stress hormones. Long-term stress especially is more likely to cause problems with moods and anxiety in women.22

Read Also: Can Stress Cause Fever Blisters

And 10 Strategies To Help You De

By Gary Kim, MD, internal medicine physician at The Portland Clinic.

A little bit of stress in life is normal your body and brain are designed to handle it. But when stress wears on you continuously without letting up, it can overwhelm your ability to cope and can cause all kinds of problems, including:

  • Muscle tension, which can increase headache and arthritis pain
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea and acid reflux
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weakened immune system, which leads to more colds and other illnesses
  • Worsening of most chronic medical conditions
  • Increased flare ups of eczema, psoriasis, acne and other skin conditions
  • Higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Self medication through alcohol or drug abuse
  • Over- or under-eating, contributing to obesity or malnutrition

According to WebMD, 75 to 90 percent of all doctors office visits are for stress-related problems. While your doctor is here to help, there are a lot of things you can do, as well, to reduce the toll of stress on your life. Here are 10 strategies to try:

1. Get physical

If you do nothing else, at least give exercise a try. It really does reduce stress, elevate mood and improve many stress-related problems. Start with a daily 10-minute walk, and build up to 30 minutes of any activity you enjoy.

2. Take a breather
3. Keep a stress diary
4. Learn the magic word
5. Stay connected
6. Schedule time to disconnect
7. Meditate
8. Do some lifestyle housecleaning
9. Sleep on it

Q: What About Energy Levels

Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can also make you tired. Your adrenal glands act like battery packs they provide energy-producing substances such as adrenaline on demand, a key part of the stress response. Unfortunately, many people overuse these limited battery reserves with endless work and personal demands, leaving them depleted. The result: fatigue.

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Is It Stress Or Anxiety

Life can be stressfulyou may feel stressed about performance at school, traumatic events , or a life change. Everyone feels stress from time to time.

What is stress? Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as having a lot of homework or having an illness. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time.

What is anxiety? Anxiety is your body’s reaction to stress and can occur even if there is no current threat.

If that anxiety doesnt go away and begins to interfere with your life, it could affect your health. You could experience problems with sleeping, or with your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. You also may be at higher risk for developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. Read more about anxiety disorders.

So, how do you know when to seek help?

When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress

How stress affects your health

You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Its natural and normal to be stressed sometimes. But long-term stress can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.

Recommended Reading: What To Do If Stressed

Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms And Diagnosis

Stress affects your digestive tract. The gastrointestinal tract is filled with nerve endings and immune cells, all of which are affected by stress hormones, says Dr. Dossett. As a result, stress can cause acid reflux as well as exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Not to mention create butterflies in your stomach.

Stress messes with your immune system. A number of studies shows that stress lowers immunity, which may be why youre likely to come down with a cold after a crunch time at school or work right on the first day of your vacation. Patients with autoimmune disorders often say they get flare-ups during or after stressful events, or tell me that their condition began after a particularly stressful event, says Dossett.

Stress can muddle your brain. Brain scans of people with post-traumatic stress disorder show more activity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear and emotion, says Haythe. But even everyday kinds of stress can affect how the brain processes information.

We see actual structural, functional, and connectivity-related brain changes in people who are under chronic stress, adds Gupta. All of these can affect cognition and attention, which is why you may find it hard to focus or learn new things when you are stressed.

How Your Body Responds To Stress

When youre under stress, your brain releases a stress response. This sends signals via the pituitary gland to the adrenal glands, to release the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

These hormones raise your blood pressure and give your body a dose of glucose that goes straight to your muscles. The idea is to get you ready and give you a boost of energy to respond to an immediate stressor.

Stress hormones are energising. They give you the motivation and focus to complete difficult tasks, solve problems, and reach your immediate goals. Thats why stress is good for you in small doses.

After the stressful situation has passed, your body can return to a normal, relaxed state. But ongoing, long-term stress the kind that cant easily be solved with a short burst of energy and focus can cause serious physical signs of stress.

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How Does Financial Stress Affect Your Health

Financial stress affects your health in many ways and these health issues can affect your home life, career and make it feel that is impossible to ever turn things around. If any of these effects of stress are causing you duress, please, consult your physician immediately.

Two of the most common effects of financial stress are anxiety and depression. These two conditions usually go hand-in-hand. Each one is a debilitating condition that makes it hard to focus at work, spend time with your family, and keep up with your bills and other financial responsibilities. The stress of having too much credit card debt, college loan payments, or medical bills can weigh on a person and cause severe anxiety and depression. If you are behind financially and are feeling discouraged and hopeless or have feelings of constant worry and poor concentration, you may be seeing signs of one of these disorders.

Anxiety can manifest in many ways, but most people that suffer with it report panic attacks where their chest feels like it’s tightening, it becomes difficult to breathe, and it’s often coupled with the inescapable sense of impending doom- the idea that something terrible is happening, it’s growing, and it won’t go away. Anxiety is mental as well as physical. Even if you aren’t in the throes of a panic attack, you may still be experiencing racing and unwanted thoughts, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and a rapid heartbeat.

  • Heart Disease/Attack
  • Substance Abuse

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