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Side Effects of Stress

Debopriya Bose Jan 23, 2019
In today's life, stress is a very common occurrence. It is very important to recognize the side effects of stress and be able to deal with them. Here are some of the commonly-observed effects of stress.
Stress refers to the emotional and physical strain that our body feels when put under some demanding or uncomfortable situation. To a certain limit it can be good, since it brings out the best in us. It gets rid of the boredom that would creep into our lives if everything was always a bed of roses.
However, too much stress can be a cause of concern, as it may become devastating for health and relationships. Everyone has different levels up to which they can handle it. Once that limit is crossed, one can feel the harmful side effects of stress.
The way people react to this condition is also different. Common reactions include irritability, inability to think clearly and concentrate, tension, and fatigue.

Physiological Changes

Our body does not differentiate between situations like meeting deadlines or the necessity to fight for life. It is prepared in the same way for any threat. As common responses to such situations, the body undergoes certain functional adjustments like:
  • Blood gets diverted from less vital to more vital organs.
  • Blood pressure increases to supply blood more efficiently.
  • Heart rate increases to pump more blood throughout the body.
  • Rate of respiration increases to get more oxygen from the atmosphere.
  • Increase in the formation of glucose from the glycogen stores in the body and from non-carbohydrate stores.

Negative Effects

The visible changes that the body undergoes due to tension are manifested in certain immediate effects like palpitation, breathlessness, drying of the mouth, headache or backache, chest pain, and hands and feet going cold with goose bumps all over the body.
As blood is diverted from the digestive system to the large muscles to fight off the challenge, the stomach and intestines may empty their contents in order to prepare the body for quick action. This leads to a feeling of nervousness, stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea.
These side effects are caused as a result of severe challenging situations that require immediate response and last for a short period of time. However, if the situation continues for long, then the following effects can also be experienced:


One of the main side effects is depression. When people are not able to cope with a demanding situation or situations, over a period of time, stress starts accumulating.
This may tire them out mentally as well as physically. One may start experiencing tension and anxiety symptoms, which may finally lead to depression.

Weight Gain

While going through this condition, calorie intake increases. We feel a natural craving for food and seek to compensate for our failure to deal with the difficult situation by overeating. What is worse is that during such times, we tend to eat more junk food (high in sugars and oils) that cause weight gain.

Weak Immune System

People suffering from long periods of anxiety often fall ill. It is because this disorder weakens the cells in the body that are supposed to fight diseases. This in turn weakens the immune system, leaving one vulnerable to a number of infections.


Our system reacts to this kind of a situation by releasing hormones, which prepare us to cope with the emergency. Our body reacts in ways that aim to keep us alert to meet the crisis.
Also, the tension of not being able to cope with a situation further makes it difficult for one to sleep. As this condition persists, lack of sleep keeps adding up over successive days. As per some studies, insomnia is also shown to lead to weight gain.

Cardiovascular Effects

As the cardiac output increases, there is greater strain on the heart, as it has to pump larger amounts of blood to various organs of the body. This makes one prone to a number of heart diseases. If this condition continues and the body has to maintain high blood pressure for too long, this might lead one to suffer from hypertension.
Depression also makes people lethargic. All of this coupled with the junk-food-syndrome can contribute to heart diseases. This is especially true of the nervous, anxious, and more pessimistic kind of individuals.
Some other negative effects include anxiety disorders, memory disturbances, inability to make decisions, lack of concentration, and shaky extremities. Long-term depression can cause a severe blow to one's confidence.
One important psychological side effect is social isolation. Studies have also shown that it is also a common reason for addictions and substance abuse.
Stress is an inescapable fact of life. Sometimes it is good, while sometimes it is harmful. What we need to realize is that we should not succumb to any of its side effects, but learn and practice simple management techniques to overcome the problem.
The best way to fight it off is with a positive attitude. If that does not help, one should not shy away from seeking help, be it from family, friends, or a medical professional.
Disclaimer: This content is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.