Are you suffering from symptoms like frequent episodes of headache, lack of sleep, stomach upsets, mood changes, lack of concentration in work? Then it’s most likely, that you are affected by chronic or prolonged stress in your life.
Stress affects physical and mental health, of which you may not even be aware. Every person reacts to stress to fight it out and little stress makes you prepare and deal with it.
But when the stress is more or severe and prolonged, then the body produces more stress hormones/hormone-like substances, which can harm your physical and mental health.
How Stress Affects Human Body? – 10 Major Affects
It is found that stress can adversely affect any system or any organ of the body. Following are the major organs that are affected due to stress.
1. Brain and The Nervous System
- Frequent headaches are known to occur. Stress triggers episodes of tension headache and attacks of migraine.
- Stress increases the risk for strokes or neurological deficits.
- Mood changes are mainly seen due to stress. Depression and anxiety can be aggravated.
- Stress may contribute to insomnia (lack of sleep/sleep problems)
- Effects cognitive functions like poor concentration at work, impairment of memory, lack of motivation.
- Behavioral problems such as irritability, anger, frustration, and social withdrawal.
2. Respiratory System
- Increase in breathing rate and developing shortness of breath.
- Aggravates chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or COPD.
- Can contribute to acute Asthma attacks.
3. Gastro-Intestinal System
- Acid peptic diseases can get aggravated such as heartburn or acid reflux, nausea, stomach pain, bloating sensation, ulcers, indigestion, loss of appetite, etc.
- Irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disorders can develop and may present as diarrhea or constipation.
- Chronic liver problems can get aggravated.
4. Cardiovascular System
- Chronic stress contributes to the development of high blood pressure.
- Chronic stress may lead to heart problems like increased heart rate (palpitations) and chest pain.
- Increases risk for heart attacks (Myocardial ischemia or infarction).
5. Endocrine System
- Stress may cause overeating due to abnormal appetite and lead to an increase of abnormal fat deposition in the body, resulting in weight gain or obesity.
- Chronic stress may lead to insulin resistance and breakdown of sugars from the liver leading to high blood sugar levels and increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- There may be a decrease in appetite and not eating adequately leads to anorexia nervosa and ketosis (formation of ketone bodies due to breakdown of fats).
- Prolonged stress can aggravate other hormone-related endocrine disorders such as thyroid disorders, adrenal gland disorders etc.
6. Musculo Skeletal System
- Muscles are always tight during stress do not get relaxed enough and go into fatigue. Prolonged stress reduces muscle and bone strength leading to falls and fractures.
- Muscular pains are common like shoulder pain, neck pain, leg cramps, and low backache.
7. Genital System and Sexual Disorders
- Loss of sex drive can occur in both females and males.
- Males may develop erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and infertility as sperm health can be affected due to stress.
- Females can develop menstrual disorders, worsening of premenstrual symptoms and menopausal symptoms, difficulty in conceiving and maintaining good health during pregnancy.
- Skin can become thin, loose, and dry.
- Inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea can get aggravated.
- Chronic stress can accelerate changes in aging and may cause aging spots, lines, and wrinkles to form earlier.
9. Immune System
- Slowing down of body’s defense system can decrease immunity.
- Make you prone to viral infections such as common cold and cough, Flu, etc.
- The ability to recover from infection or injury gets delayed.
10. Substance Abuse
When people resort to substance abuse, to overcome stress, it can affect health in a serious way.
- Tobacco smoking or chewing.
- Excess consumption of alcohol.
- Drugs or sedatives misuse.
Stress is a slow and steady killer of each and every body system. This happens without us even knowing or perceiving it. We need to consciously be aware and learn to control the stressful situations in our lives.