Signs, symptoms and effects of stress

Early warning signs

  • Low blood sugar
  • High blood sugar
  • Tired but can’t sleep
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Repeated influenza
  • Repeated colds
  • Muscle aches
  • Chest pain
  • Nervous talking
  • High cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Gastric disturbance
  • Withdraw from social life

Physical signs and symptoms

  • Trembling Twitching
  • Stuttering and other speech difficulties
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dryness of the mouth or throat
  • Susceptibility to minor illness
  • Cold hands
  • Itching
  • Being easily startled

Emotional signs and symptoms

  • Lack of interest
  • Tendency to cry
  • Being critical of others
  • Self-deprecation
  • Nightmares
  • Impatience
  • Narrowed focus
  • Obsessive rumination
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Diminished initiative
  • Feelings of unreality or over-alertness
  • Weakened positive emotional response reflexes

Cognitive/perceptual signs and symptoms

  • Orientation to the past
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of attention to detail
  • Attention deficit
  • Disorganization of thought
  • Negative self-esteem
  • Diminished sense of meaning in life
  • Lack of control/need for too much control
  • Negative self-statements

Behavioral signs and symptoms

  • Listlessness
  • Hostility
  • Accident-proneness
  • Nervous laughter
  • Compulsive behavior and Impatience

Long term implications of stress

Exposure to stress on a long-term basis can be debilitating both physically and mentally. As we discussed before, under stress the body produces an increase in the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and corticosteroids. In the short-term these hormones produce tense muscles, queasiness and an increase in breathing and heart rates. Long-term complaints that are stress related include:

  • Irritable bladder
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Menstrual problems in women
  • Mouth and peptic ulcers
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Palpitations
  • Panic attacks
  • Eczema Ulcerative colitis

A number of other diseases including multiple sclerosis, diabetes and genital herpes can also be aggravated by stress.

Possible physical disorders caused or exacerbated by stress

  • Arthritis
  • Respiratory disease
  • Ulcers
  • Colitis
  • Cancer

Possible emotional disorders caused or exacerbated by stress

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Depression
  • Adjustment disorders

Effects of stress on systems in the body

Central nervous system

Anxiety, depression, fatigue.

Cardiovascular system

Impaired heart function; can cause angina. Constriction of the peripheral blood vessels, thereby raising blood pressure.

Digestive system

Stomach upsets, even ulcers, diarrhea, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis canker sores in the mouth.

Respiratory system


Musculoskeletal system

Tension in skeletal muscles and joints, leading to backache and muscular aches and pains Predisposition to arthritis;degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Immune system

Weakened defenses, with lowered resistance to infections viral illnesses (often due to a depleted immune defense system) allergies malignant cell changes; cancer.

Endocrine system

Menstrual disorders thyroid disorders (underactive, overactive, thyroiditis) adrenal hypofunction.

Reproductive system

Infertility premature ejaculation impotence.


Eczema, psoriasis, rashes.


Tissue degeneration acceleration of aging process.

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