Warning Signals and Symptoms of Stress

Stress is the body’s physiological response to a hostile environment. The body will try and overcome stress by certain physiological adjustments. If it succeeds the physiological adjustments and stress symptoms revert to normal. If not, the persistence of the response over time may cause the affected person to develop physical, physiological and psychological problems. Unrelieved stress will affect your health, work, studies and your relationships.

The following are some of the physiological changes that occur in your body during prolonged exposure to stress; these changes are responsible for the signs and physical symptoms of stress:

  • Blood is diverted from less vital to more vital organs.
  • The heart rate increases to supply more blood
  • Blood pressure increases to supply blood more efficiently.
  • The respiratory rate increases to get more oxygen.
  • To get more glucose, the glycogen stores in the liver and muscles are broken down.
  • More glucose is formed from non-carbohydrate substances.

Short Term Effects of Stress

Signs and symptoms related to the short term effects of stress include the following:

  • Palpitations
  • Chest Pains
  • Cold clammy skin with gooseflesh
  • Flushing and feeling of warmth
  • Breathlessness
  • Dry mouth with difficulty in speaking and swallowing
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Aggravation of Peptic Ulcer
  • Loose stools
  • Increase blood glucose levels
  • Headache, backache and neck pain
  • Depletion of energy stores
  • Flare up of diseases like eczema, psoriasis, arthritis
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Memory disturbances
  • Sleeplessness
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Trembling or dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Urinary problems
  • Sudden bursts of energy

Long Term Effects of Stress

When the stress factor is persistent or repetitive, the body experiences stress with the extra burden of the side effects of the persistently high stress hormones. This could lead to irreversible physiological damages of the brain and organ damage. The manifestation of long-term stress could be:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Memory disturbances
  • Heart attack due to increased blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol
  • Stroke due to similar reasons
  • Weight loss
  • Exacerbation of allergies including asthma
  • Irritable Bowel disease
  • Ischemic Bowel disease like Crohn’s disease
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Sleeplessness

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a delayed reaction to an exceptionally stressful situation or a life threatening event where a person feels helpless. After a dormant period the person re-experiences the past traumatic events as ‘flashbacks’, or dreams and tries to avoid any stimuli or situation which reminds of the past trauma. The symptoms include:

  • Psychological numbing
  • Amnesia of certain aspects of a stressful event
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Isolation
  • Reduced interest in activities
  • Sleeplessness
  • Agitation

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