The Effects of Stress on the Body The Effects of Stress on the Body

the Effects of
stress on the Body

Stress has an immediate effect on your body. In the short term, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but chronic stress puts your health at risk.

In response to perceived danger, the hypothalamus places an order for stress hormones. Read more.

Stress triggers the “fight or flight” response that can save you from danger. Read more.

Headache is a common side effect of chronic stress. Read more.

Prolonged stress can interfere with sleep and cause insomnia. Read more.

Chronic stress can cause additional anxiety and lead to depression. Read more.

Stress causes you to breathe faster so you can take in more oxygen. If you already have respiratory problems, you might have trouble breathing. Read more.

Stress hormones make your heart pump faster so that blood can reach vital organs and limbs quickly. Read more.

Stress hormones, constricted blood vessels, and a pounding heart can raise blood pressure. That’s all right in the short term, but it’s a real danger of chronic stress. Read more.

Over time, stress takes a toll on your heart, raising your risk of heart attack. Read more.

Your liver ramps up glucose production to give you energy for that “fight or flight” response. Read more.

Your liver releases extra glucose into your bloodstream. Too much glucose for too long puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Read more.

You digestive system feels the impact of stress. You might get heartburn or have acid reflux. Read more.

Your aching stomach may be a sign that you’re overstressed. You might even have diarrhea or develop constipation. Read more.

Stress makes your muscles tense up. If you aren’t able to relax them, you may develop aches and pains all over your body. Read more.

A little stress might make a man more aroused, but chronic stress kills the mood. Read more.

Fluctuating hormones can throw your menstrual cycle off or stop it all together. Read more.

Low testosterone levels may cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Read more.

Stress wreaks havoc on the reproductive system in both men and women and may make it harder to conceive. Read more.

Stress activates your immune system to protect you, but if it continues too long, it has the opposite effect. Read more.

If your immune system isn’t working at full capacity, you’re more likely to get an infection or develop a disease. Read more.

Ground Zero
Pounding Heart
Heart Attack
In the Blood
Stomach Ache
Not in the Mood
Erectile Dysfunction
Immune System Response
Fight or Flight
Can’t Sleep
Rapid Breathing
High Blood Pressure
In the Liver
My Aching Back
Irregular Menstrual Cycle

The Effects of Stress on the Body

If you’re alive, you’ve got stress. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to your health and safety. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones and increasing your heart and breathing rates. Your brain gets more oxygen, giving you an edge in responding to a problem. In the short term, stress helps you cope with tough situations.

Stress can be triggered by the pressures of everyday responsibilities at work and at home. As you might expect, negative life events like divorce or the death of a loved one cause stress. So can physical illness. Traumatic stress, brought on by war, disaster, or a violent attack, can keep your body’s stress levels elevated far longer than is necessary for survival.

Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect your overall health and well-being.

Central Nervous and Endocrine Systems

Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. The CNS instantly tells the rest of your body what to do, marshaling all resources to the cause. In the brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol.

When the perceived fear is gone, the CNS should tell all systems to go back to normal. It has done its job. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, it takes a toll on your body.

Symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, and depression. You may suffer from headaches or insomnia. Chronic stress is a factor in some behaviors like overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, or social withdrawal.

Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems

Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to distribute oxygen and blood quickly to your body core. If you have preexisting respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it harder to breathe.

Your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and raise your blood pressure. All that helps get oxygen to your brain and heart so you’ll have more strength and energy to take action.

Frequent or chronic stress makes your heart work too hard for too long, raising your risk of hypertension and problems with your blood vessels and heart. You’re at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

The female hormone estrogen offers pre-menopausal women some protection from stress-related heart disease.

Digestive System

Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. Unused blood sugar is reabsorbed by the body. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge, and you may be at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The rush of hormones, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate can upset your digestive system. You’re more likely to have heartburn or acid reflux. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers — a bacterium called H. pylori does — but stress may cause existing ulcers to act up.

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

Muscular System

Under stress, your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury. You’ve probably felt your muscles tighten up and release again once you relax. If you’re constantly under stress, your muscles don’t get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Over time, you may stop exercising and turn to pain medication, setting off an unhealthy cycle.

Sexuality and Reproductive System

Stress is exhausting for the body and for the mind. It’s not unusual to lose your desire for sex when you’re under chronic stress. However, men may produce more of the male hormone testosterone during stress, which may increase sexual arousal in the short term.

For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. You might have irregular or no menstruation, or heavier and more painful periods. The physical symptoms of menopause may be magnified under chronic stress.

If stress continues for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels begin to drop. That can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may make the urethra, prostate, and testes more prone to infection.

Immune System

Stress stimulates the immune system. In the short term, that’s a bonus. It helps you stave off infection and heal wounds. Over time, cortisol compromises your immune system, inhibiting histamine secretion and inflammatory response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like influenza and the common cold. It increases risk of other opportunistic diseases and infections. It can also increase the time it takes to recover from illness or injury.