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Symptoms of Stress

 

Explanations > Stress > Symptoms of stress

Emotional/cognitive symptoms | Physical symptoms | Autonomic nervous system | So what?

 

Stress affects us all. If you can spot the symptoms, you can manage them.

Do note, of course, that these symptoms may also be indicators of other things. (If in doubt, consult you doctor...).

Note also that a stressed person is unlikely to experience all of these symptoms and that even one can be a sign of stress.

Emotional/cognitive symptoms

Emotional and cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling frustrated at having to wait for something
  • Feeling restless
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Becoming easily confused
  • Having memory problems
  • Thinking about negative things all the time
  • Negative self-talk
  • Having marked mood swings
  • Eating too much
  • Eating when you are not hungry
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Not having enough energy to get things done
  • Feeling you can't cope
  • Finding it hard to make decisions
  • Having emotional outbursts
  • Generally feeling upset
  • Lack of sense of humor

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches, irritability, depression
  • Hair loss
  • Dry mouth, mouth ulcers
  • Pains in chest
  • Aggravation of conditions such as asthma
  • Pains in shoulders or neck
  • Low back pain
  • Stomach/abdominal pain
  • 'Butterflies' in stomach
  • Indigestion and 'the gurgles'
  • Diarrhea, irritable bowel
  • Ulcers, gastristis, colitis
  • 'Pounding' or 'racing' heart
  • Cardiovascular disease, hypertension
  • Muscle spasms or nervous tics
  • Unexplained rashes or skin irritations
  • Sweaty palms
  • Sweating when not physically active
  • Menstrual and vaginal disorders
  • Premature ejaculation, impotence
  • Unable to sleep or excessive sleep
  • Shortness of breath
  • Holding breath

Muscles work in opposing pairs, with movement caused when one contracts whilst the other relaxes. Stress can result in both muscles working at once. There is thus no movement, but still muscular tension.

Autonomic nervous system

We have an involuntary nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which contains two types of nerves.

  • Parasympathetic nerves conserve energy and keep the systems in a relatively resting state.
  • Sympathetic nerves prepare the body for action through the Fight-or-Flight reaction.

Thus it is the sympathetic system that is affected by stress.

So what?

Watch out for your own stress, and help others reduce theirs.

If you are using stress to persuade, watch for these symptoms as indication of your success. Beware of over-stressing people and creating a Fight-or-flight reaction.

See also

Fight-or-Flight reaction, General Adaptation Syndrome, Emotions

 

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