There is a difference between regular stress and chronic stress. Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations. These situations can be real or perceived. Once you begin to feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body known as the “fight-or-flight” response. During this response, your body prepares itself to act. Our bodies can handle a small amount of stress. While everyone experiences stress on an almost daily basis, it’s when these feelings become long-lasting, or chronic, that they begin to have a negative effect on your life.
Chronic stress symptoms often occur as the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period in which an individual perceives they have little or no control. When you find yourself in a constant state of alertness, you’re most likely experiencing some form of chronic stress symptoms. We’ll explore eight chronic stress symptoms to help you identify whether you are suffering from this affliction:
1. Chronic Pain
One of the most common chronic stress symptoms is experiencing chronic aches and pains. Many studies have shown the link between chronic stress and chronic pain. For example, one study has shown that increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be associated with chronic pain. In this study, 16 people with chronic back pain were compared to a control group. The study found that those with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone.
2. Decreased Energy
When you’re chronically stressed, you’ll often feel like you have little to no energy. In a study that investigated this link, it was found that fatigue was strongly associated with increased stress levels.
Chronic stress can also leave you feeling emotionally exhausted. This is characterized by a state of feeling emotionally worn-out. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often report feeling like they have no power or control over what is going on in their lives.
Also, lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. If these chronic stress symptoms persist over time, it can permanently damage your health.
3. Digestive Problems
Many digestive issues, like constipation and diarrhea are caused by chronic stress. If you already have a digestive issue, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), stress may have an even greater impact on your digestive system.
When your body is under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to help boost your energy. When you’re experiencing chronic stress, your body will have a difficult time keeping up with the extra glucose. That’s why chronic stress may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You may also experience other chronic stress symptoms that impair your digestion system, like heartburn, ulcers, nausea, vomiting and stomach aches.
When it becomes difficult to cope with the chronic stress symptoms, you may begin to feel depressed. This may result in being in a constant bad mood, decreased motivation, decreased productivity at work, sleep problems, and relationship problems. You may feel so helpless and hopeless about your condition that the depression begins to consume you, making it difficult to get on with your daily routine. If the depression worsens over time, you may need to seek personal or employee mental health programs to begin your recovery process.
5. Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders may arise when you are suffering from chronic stress. You may experience feelings of impending doom, panic, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, anger and restlessness. Living everyday like this results in a number of physical afflictions as well, like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
6. High Blood Pressure
Stressful situations naturally cause your blood pressure to raise temporarily. Your body will produce a surge of hormones which increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. These hormones can damage your arteries, and even lead to heart disease.
Headaches are another physiological symptom that arise from chronic stress. These stress headaches are characterized by pain in the head and neck areas. Chronic stress is a common trigger for headaches. Many studies have found that increased stress levels are associated with increased headaches. One study that investigated the link between chronic stress and headaches found that increased stress was associated with an increase in the number of headaches experienced each month. Another study of 267 people suffering from chronic headaches found that a stressful event preceded the development of chronic headaches in about 45% of people.
Chronic stress is highly linked with insomnia since stress disrupts sleep. You may find it more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or you may wake up before the time you intended. This in turn leads to lower energy levels throughout the day. Numerous studies have shown an association between chronic stress and restlessness at bedtime and an increase risk of insomnia.
As these eight symptoms of chronic stress show, many of these symptoms are related. It’s important to exercise, eat a good diet and try to get as much rest as possible to help mitigate the effects of chronic stress.