Illnesses Caused By Stress

Illnesses Caused By Stress

Illnesses Caused By Stress

Stress affects us all. You may notice symptoms of stress when disciplining your kids, during busy times at work, when managing your finances, or when coping with a challenging relationship. Stress is everywhere. And while a little stress is OK — some stress is actually beneficial — too much stress can wear you down and make you sick, both mentally and physically.

The first step to controlling stress is to know the symptoms of stress. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don't know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point. Stress is the body's reaction to harmful situations — whether they’re real or perceived.

When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During a stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You’ve gotten ready to act. It is how you protect yourself.

Illnesses Caused By Stress

Stress means different things to different people. What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. And, not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you. That's a good thing. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.

Everyone experiences stress, of course, but it's particularly prevalent among adults over 50. In a recent Harvard University-Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-NPR poll, about a quarter of 2,500 participants said they'd experienced “a great deal” of stress in the last month. Another poll, conducted in August by AARP, found 37 percent of adults over 50 experienced a major stressful life event in the past year, such as the death of a family member, chronic illness or a job loss.

Certainly, many people who are stressed end up eating, drinking and smoking more, and sleeping and exercising less — tendencies that have obvious negative consequences for our health. But scientists are discovering a much more nuanced picture, says Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University in New York and the author of The End of Stress as We Know It.

The human body reacts to stress by first pumping adrenaline and then cortisol into the bloodstream to focus the mind and body for immediate action — a response that has ensured our survival over the millennia. The adrenaline rush from the initial stress response can occasionally pose health risks, according to Cohen, but the more significant hazard is the subsequent release of cortisol.

Generally considered a bad stress hormone, cortisol does serve many important functions — one of which is turning off inflammation. But when chronic stress exposes the body to a relentless stream of cortisol, as happens when stress is constant, cells become desensitized to the hormone, “causing inflammation to go wild,” Cohen says. Long-term chronic inflammation damages blood vessels and brain cells lead to insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) and promote painful joint diseases.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a state of worry or concern over an upcoming situation, something that may happen or has happened that causes you to be anxious.

When you have too much stress, it causes your body to produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol helps control the “fight-or-flight” response, which helps your body stay alert and helps you respond to danger.

However, too much cortisol makes you feel stressed and you may become emotionally drained, anxious and have trouble sleeping. Cortisol can make you feel tired, angry, hungry, tightwad, stressed out, and on a crash diet. We live in a society that values expensive food and health insurance. You can feel stressed and continue to look for that perfect green bean recipe when your hard-earned money is being spent on a new meal plan. You may even struggle to afford your own meal plan.

Symptoms Of Stress

Symptoms Of Stress

Irritability. Your mood becomes irritable. As the old saying goes, the only thing that irritates you more than stress is boredom.  Your mood becomes irritable. As the old saying goes, the only thing that irritates you more than stress is boredom. Increased heart rate and blood pressure. Your blood pressure shoots up and you feel a fast pulse in your chest. You may even notice a sharp pain in your chest.

Your blood pressure shoots up and you feel a fast pulse in your chest. You may even notice a sharp pain in your chest. Fear and worry. Your heart and breathing may increase, and you may experience sudden bursts of fear.  Your heart and breathing may increase, and you may experience sudden bursts of fear. Dehydration. You may notice you feel thirsty and less focused.

Common Causes For Stress

Feelings of stress can be caused by many things:  Alcohol and drug abuse, Emotional eating, Family turmoil, Work overload, and Major life events  Stress causes physical changes that lead to your body being out of balance. The heart pounds. Blood pressure increases. Your muscles tense and become tight.

Stress is what happens when the fight-or-flight response is activated. Your body is preparing itself to either fight or flee a threat, so you are taking extra precautions and are having heightened responses to your surroundings. Positive stress is good for you and beneficial for your overall well-being and that of your family and friends. In fact, taking part in stressful activities can improve your immune system and strengthen your mind. When stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, however, it's a problem.


Anxiety and depression are not just situational. These are all real, often serious health conditions. Chronic stress is not good for you and ignoring it can be downright dangerous.  Of course, some people have a physiological response to stress. Other people may get sick more often due to the effects of stress on their immune systems.

Some people who are chronically stressed may develop problems with memory or their sense of sight.  At some point, many of us will experience periods of stress that lead to poor health or unhealthy behaviours.

Insomnia is a common sleeping disorder that causes the brain to wake up too early, especially during the night. One explanation may be that our bodies try to react to the stress of the day — you're thinking about paying a bill or worrying about work — by racing through the sleep cycle so that we can restore our bodies to “rest” or “deep sleep.”

That exhausting cycle may also set the stage for anxiety and depression. Insomnia is a sleep disorder, but sleep problems are common in people with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. If you struggle to sleep, it may be a sign of stress.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

The brain has been damaged by chronic stress in the past. Now, it's increasingly used to regulate blood pressure, stress hormones, and even brain waves.

Poor sleep can increase anxiety, depression, pain sensitivity, and digestive problems. Nighttime sleep problems can reduce alertness the next day. Some people have insomnia because of some serious underlying medical conditions, but insomnia can also be caused by life stress, including:

  • Family turmoil,
  • A failing relationship,
  • Anxiety,
  • Boring life,
  • Feeling trapped in an unhealthy situation,
  • Self-esteem issues, and
  • Financial stress.

As you can see, these health problems are usually the result of chronic stress. They're often related to poor habits, poor diet, and self-abuse, which can trigger your stress response. In this case, addressing the problem would be the best way to improve your health. And the best way to take care of yourself is to consciously lower your stress.

Eating Disorders

Is your mother a control freak? She’s probably instilled the fear of displeasing her by telling you how to do everything from making your bed to folding your laundry to driving you to every lacrosse practice and high school football game. If that's the case, there is a good chance that you may be dealing with an eating disorder.

While you are under the family thumb, your obsession with pleasing your mother may have caused you to lose your self-control. This can turn into an unhealthy coping mechanism to make up for your not being in control.  There are many different eating disorders, but the most common are binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia. Each of these disorders impacts the health of your body in very different ways.

Stress can make you crave unhealthy foods. The more you chase unhealthy and bad-for-you foods, the more you stress eat. And stress eating will likely lead you down the road to an eating disorder. It's important for parents to understand the impact of stress on the developing brain. But, if you find that your children are not emotionally stable or are struggling with stress, it's important to get help. (Most schools have therapists and counsellors to help children and teenagers work through problems.)

Experts say these ways to help your kids overcome stress:

1. Help your child: Have a strategy. Discuss ways to take control of your feelings so you can take action.

2. Meet with a therapist. This is a good first step.

Anyone who's ever had a pop-culture crush has fantasized about being thin enough to be a movie star or rock star. These days, you have plenty of weight-loss or body-building fads on the market — but those can also be dangerous. Excess weight or fat in your body can be the first sign of an eating disorder.

Anorexia: Doctors say someone with anorexia gets so busy focusing on her body image that she often forgets to eat. Doctors say someone with anorexia gets so busy focusing on her body image that she often forgets to eat. Bulimia nervosa: Not only do people with bulimia often get so preoccupied with how much they weigh, but they may also be unable to stop vomiting.



High stress can increase your risk of depression. This is because stress can change the brain's biochemistry, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and mentally fatigued.  While stress may be a catalyst for depression, it does not necessarily mean you have clinical depression. Symptoms of stress include insomnia, lack of motivation, low energy and fatigue.

These are all warning signs for a depressed person but do not necessarily mean you have clinical depression. See your doctor if these symptoms are affecting your daily life. Anxiety is caused by the same reactions that a person has to an actual situation. When someone is under stress, their brain activates the “fight or flight” response, sending blood to their hearts and other parts of their body.

Depression occurs when you feel sadness or hopelessness often, and feel like nothing can change. You may be tired or get out of bed, and no matter how much you try, you can't shake the feeling that life is meaningless and your problems are too big. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.

Many people experience a general sense of fatigue after doing everyday tasks, and fatigue is a symptom of heart disease. You may feel like you can't do the things you want to do, or you're not motivated to do the things you do want to do. You may also have trouble sleeping or, at times, have racing or irregular heartbeat.

All kinds of stress can lead to depression. Depression is common in adults and one in seven women in the U.S. will have a depressive episode by age 40. Sometimes stress can trigger depression, but there are often other triggers as well.

For example, a stressful life event can increase your risk of becoming depressed, but it's also more likely if you already have a depressive disorder. Even if you aren't depressed, a stressful life event can still make you feel depressed. Here are some tips to deal with depression:

  • Talk to your doctor. The more you know about how you're feeling, the more options you have to feel better.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can increase your risk of depression, so aim for seven or more hours a night.

Anxiety And Panic Attacks

You're so busy you can't even remember why you came to the office today. Even if you’re facing a seemingly insignificant problem, your brain begins making suggestions on how to solve it. Your heart races and you feel nauseous. Anxiety is the most common stress symptom. Sometimes it's just about not being able to accomplish a goal of having something you can't control.

Anxiety can occur when your nerves are on edge and your breathing is rapid. Panic attacks happen when a situation that has been triggered unexpectedly overwhelms you and makes you feel like you’re going to die. These episodes may also include a racing heart and shallow breathing. Panic attacks can start with intense fear, but sometimes the feelings of terror turn into a full-fledged panic attack.

These physical symptoms can be triggered by too much stress and anxiety. They can include heart palpitations, chest pain, a feeling of heart failure and shortness of breath. Just as heart attack victims often experience chest pain, these symptoms are also referred to as “angina.”

Psychological symptoms – This is the most common form of stress-related illness and the most widely discussed. This includes irritability, excessive anger, being easily frustrated, anxiety, agitation, and obsessive thinking and rumination. Children often experience and show symptoms of stress when school functions like tests and homework are added to the daily workload of their everyday lives.

We all get anxious from time to time. But when you're worried about something, you often don't know when to stop worrying, and you get stuck in an anxiety cycle that leaves you exhausted and in a cycle of negative thinking. The added stress of dealing with other people's stress can make you more anxious and more sensitive to other people's moods.

Stress makes us sick in many ways. For example, we all know that stress can lower immune system functions. Other risks include headache, sore muscles, sleeplessness, digestive problems, aches and pains, and lowered immune function. Stress also brings on lots of physical symptoms, including headaches, nosebleeds, digestive problems, skin infections, backaches and migraines.

Colds And Viruses

Colds are caused by a virus, which affects the body's immune system and is not transmitted from person to person. Children, particularly babies, experience more viral illnesses because their immune systems are not as developed and they are more likely to get sick easily. Babies also cannot throw up or have diarrhea or other symptoms of the common cold.

Stress can cause high blood pressure, irritability, stomach problems, weight loss and even heart attack, but not everyone who suffers from stress develops physical symptoms. Stress in older people, who tend to experience fewer physical symptoms, is often associated with diminished cognitive functions, including memory, attention and judgment.

Stress, in some cases, can make us more susceptible to colds and viruses. A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology found that men who are high on one of the “Big Five” personality traits — extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience — are more likely to get sick when they perceive that they are under high amounts of stress.

Cold and flu season can really take a toll on your body. Influenza is especially dangerous for children, who are particularly vulnerable to complications from influenza, such as dehydration and brain swelling. Beyond making you feel crummy, illnesses like the flu can also strain your relationship. It is important to be alert for warning signs that you or your kids have a cold or the flu.

Symptoms of flu or cold can include headache, fatigue, weakness, fever, muscle or body aches, runny nose, sore throat and cough. Remember to get flu shots as soon as they are available each year. You can also lower your risk of getting sick by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes and staying away from people who are sick.

Circulatory Problems

If your blood pressure is high, you may experience chest pain and fatigue. You may not feel like you can get enough air when you are too tired to sit up straight. Your muscles may feel weak and heavy. You may have problems with your vision or some dizziness, coordination problems, or unsteadiness when you stand up. Difficulty concentrating and memory problems are other signs of high blood pressure.

Heart attack or cardiac arrest Stress and high blood pressure cause a buildup of tension in your heart and arteries. This triggers your body's heart muscle to contract, which is hard on your arteries and heart. Your heart may stop beating altogether. These are serious, life-threatening situations that should be treated immediately.

Stress can cause a significant decline in your blood pressure over time. When your blood pressure is high, your heart struggles to pump blood to the brain and other parts of your body properly. When your blood pressure is too low, your heart doesn't pump blood to your organs, and your kidneys don't function as well.

High blood pressure and high blood sugar can damage heart tissue and blood vessels. High blood pressure and high blood sugar can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, and increase your risk of heart failure. Stress is a leading risk factor for death and disease in older adults.

Your heart is like a muscle that needs to constantly rest. If you are chronically stressed, your heart doesn't get the rest it needs, which can cause blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack.


Stress weakens the immune system, which makes it harder to fight off infections. This might explain why research suggests that people who experience too much stress are at greater risk for infections such as colds and flu.

Chronic Headaches

In a study in the Journal of Public Health, researchers found that people with more stress were more likely to have headaches — and researchers know that headaches are associated with heart disease.


Research published in American Psychologist suggests that stress may increase your risk of developing diabetes.



Avoiding stressful situations is an excellent first step for maintaining your health. It can be difficult to avoid some stressors, but remember that other people's stress is also a huge factor. It is important to take a good look at your lifestyle to decide what is worth putting stress on yourself over and what should be left to the experts.

Stress plays a role in many different aspects of our lives, and stress alone can not be the cause of poor health. Some people have a genetic disposition to sickness, while others develop a sickness due to the stress they deal with on a daily basis. Understanding your stress triggers and your triggers is key to avoiding chronic illnesses.

The key to avoiding illness is to know yourself, understand your stress triggers and the causes of illness in general, and know when and where stress becomes harmful. If you don't know, it's hard to know how to prevent it or find a way to turn it into a positive. Have an approach to stress that prevents illness. Stress is something that will be present all your life.

I trust you enjoyed this article about the Illnesses Caused By Stress. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly.




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