“Dear Stress, It’s Time To Break Up.”
Chronic stress can cause a variety of serious health problems. Listed below are the different ways in which stress affects your bodily functions:
- The cardiovascular system: It consists of the blood vessels and the heart which supply oxygenated blood and nourishment to different body tissues. Acute or short-term stress can result in symptoms like increased heart rate, high levels of stress hormones, stronger cardiac muscle contractions, and increased supply of blood to the heart and large muscles via dilated blood vessels eventually leading to rise in blood pressure.
- The musculoskeletal system: Stress can cause the muscles to become tense and taut; it is often a reflex response to tension and stress. Chronic stress can cause the muscles to remain tense for prolonged periods and result in different conditions like migraines, tension-type headaches, and other stress-linked ailments. People with injuries may worry and stress about re-injury and pain and may avoid even minor physical activities, thereby resulting in musculoskeletal problems and even muscle atrophy.
- The gastrointestinal system: Stress can increase sensitivity of brain to sensations in stomach, leading to stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, etc. Severe chronic stress can trigger formation of ulcers. Stress can cause overeating and increase use of tobacco and/or alcohol. This can lead to acid reflux/heartburn. High stress levels can affect the process of nutrient absorption by the bowels, digestion, and the passage of food across the intestines, thus resulting in constipation or diarrhea.
- The respiratory system: Stress may trigger breathing problems, especially in people with asthma, emphysema, or other lung diseases. Hyperventilation or rapid breathing trigger by stress can result in onset of panic attacks.
- The endocrine system: Increased stress can cause the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and autonomic nervous system to release more of cortisol and epinephrine hormones, which are often known as ‘stress hormones.’ High levels of stress hormones triggers flight or fight response which causes the liver to produce more blood sugar for increased energy. The glucose gets absorbed by the body of healthy people when stress alleviates. However, it may increase the risk to development of diabetes in people with predisposition to the Type 2 diabetes.
- The female reproductive system: Stress can adversely affect menstruation in women and girls and cause irregular or absent periods, altered duration of the cycles, and elevated pain during periods. Stress in women who have to juggle different financial, familial, and professional demands can result in decreased sexual desire. Premenstrual symptoms like fluid retention, cramping, mood swings, bloating, and irritability, etc. may worsen by increased stress. Chronic stress can also exacerbate menopause symptoms, especially hot flashes.
- The male reproductive system: The nervous system, which signals increased production of stress hormones during stress, influences the male reproductive system. Thus, ongoing prolonged stress in men can adversely affect their reproductive system’s normal biochemical functions like sperm manufacture and maturation, testosterone release, etc. Stress may even increase risk to impotence or erectile dysfunction.
Stress can be managed best through CBT, exercising, relaxation methods, socializing, breathing techniques, eating well, and avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
Coming up with a plan of attack against stress is your best bet for staying on track.
The Anxiety Guy Community Links :
Join the #1 Health Anxiety & GAD support page on Facebook.
The Anxiety Guy On SnapChat.
Got questions? Ask them on YouTube.