If a person is able to identify their stress symptoms, it can help them manage and improve their mental health. A variety of scenarios can cause people to feel stress, and the symptoms may differ from person to person.
Some common symptoms of stress include headaches, stomach upset, and irregular eating patterns. Experiencing chronic stress can be harmful to a person’s long-term health.
This article describes the possible signs and symptoms of stress. It also explores the complications that may occur when a person experiences too much stress, and how a person can identify, manage, and treat stress.
Signs and symptoms of stress will differ from person to person. Also, many different triggers can result in a stressful response for each person.
However, some common stress symptoms include:
Body aches and pain
During a stressful episode, the muscles of the body may become tense. Tension is a physical response to stress that allows the body to protect itself from injury.
If the muscles remain tense for an extended period of time, the body may respond by triggering other stress reactions, increasing the risk of stress-related disorders.
In a paper in the
The researchers found that irritation, anxiety, and alertness increased headache intensity during the stressful task. In general, those who experienced headaches during the mental math test felt nausea, had negative feelings, and had higher expectations of their success before the headache started.
The researchers conclude that when the participants overexerted themselves and were unable to modify their feelings during the stressful event, they had higher chances of experiencing a headache.
Acne and other skin conditions
Sebum production might play an important role in acne in adolescents. It is currently unclear whether or not psychological stress increases sebum production, which might connect stress to increased or worsened acne.
Researchers followed a group of secondary school students throughout the year. Stress levels were higher during the exam period and lower in the summer. Students presented with more severe acne during stressful times, but the researchers did not notice an increase in sebum production.
Although acne may worsen with stress, researchers have not yet determined the cause.
People who experience digestive problems during stressful situations may notice abdominal pain and bloating. Stress may also influence the bacteria living in the gut.
Also, experiencing stress early in life can affect how the nervous system and body react to stress in the long-term. This can increase the risk of digestive disorders later in adulthood.
Some people may overeat during stressful experiences, whereas others may undereat. In fact, studies estimate that about
Researchers suggest that uncontrolled stress can
During stressful times, some people may experience difficulty sleeping. Studies indicate that some
- family history
- sex (namely, being female)
- environmental stress
One of the suspected reasons that stressors affect substance use may be through the activation of similar brain areas. Stress can sensitize these areas, so when a person uses drugs, their motivation centers are already adapted to the effects of the drug.
People experiencing stress may find themselves using recreational drugs or drinking alcohol more than usual. This increases the risk of developing a dependence on the substance.
Other symptoms of stress
Since each person’s response to stress is different, some have reported other symptoms, such as:
- a lack of focus
- mood changes
- loss of interest
- decreased libido
Chronic stress can cause problems in the following bodily systems:
The American Psychological Association suggest that chronic stress can also impact the endocrine and respiratory systems. For example, some people may experience shortness of breath and rapid breathing during stressful periods.
Those with chronic stress may have an increased production of cortisol. Although cortisol is helpful for the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, it can lead to chronic fatigue and obesity, among other conditions.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest several strategies to help cope with stress. The sections below will outline these in more detail.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of stress
Keeping a journal of the symptoms a person experiences during stressful periods can help them track how they feel.
Also, journaling can help people figure out exactly what triggers their stress. Knowing the triggers can help them prevent symptoms by controlling their responses to stress.
Get regular exercise
Experts suggest that as little as half an hour per day of walking can improve mood.
Regular stretching and gentle activity are enough to help relieve muscle tension, along with other physical aches and pains that occur due to stress.
Try a relaxing activity
For those who experience chronic stress, scheduling relaxing activities regularly may help them manage and control it.
Some people feel stress when they have too much to do. Making a list of items and deciding which have the highest priority can help a person get the most important tasks done first. Refusing new tasks can also help prevent stress.
People who focus on which items they have completed at the end of the day may feel more productive than those who focus on what they did not accomplish.
Connect with others
Everyone experiences stress. Having a support group of other people can help some people manage their stress. Support groups may offer emotional support and practical tips to help a person manage their stress better.
When stress starts to affect a person’s quality of life, health, or relationships, they should consider seeing a doctor. Sometimes, the physical symptoms of stress can cause health conditions.
For example, stress can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, which can have long-term negative effects on a person’s health.
People experiencing pain, difficulty sleeping, or mood changes may require medical attention to manage stress symptoms and complications.
People experience varying degrees of stress, and different triggers may initiate a stress response in different people. Some symptoms of stress include difficulty sleeping, irregular eating habits, and stomach upset. Sometimes, these symptoms may lead to complications.
Learning to manage stress requires time and effort, but it can help prevent physical symptoms and complications. Making time for exercise, socializing, and relaxing activities can help.
Chronic stress may require professional medical advice to treat and manage. Identifying stress symptoms and treating the underlying cause can help improve a person’s long-term health and well-being.