How Does Stress Affect the Body?

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Many people might think that stress is no big deal. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Well, unfortunately, this is not true.

All of that stress from your daily life, whether due to your job, your financial hardships, the trials of raising kids, and everything in between, can have consequences on your health.

In this article, we will discuss how does stress affect the body. There are many physical manifestations of stress, and none of them are good.

However, it goes even further than that, because the body and the mind are linked, and stress has a big effect on both.

Stress can affect you in many ways, and this can include physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

If you cannot find a way to get your stress under control, you might develop any of the symptoms that we will discuss.

How Does Stress Affect the Body

Physical Manifestations of Stress

The first type of effect that stress can have on the human body is that it can result in a variety of physical manifestations. People who are constantly stressed out may develop various physical symptoms.

What is interesting to note is that stress often manifests itself in ways that don’t make sense, which is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, but even your body doesn’t know how to handle it.

The human body needs a way to deal with that stress, and if you cannot manage to get it under control, that mental stress can result in various physical symptoms, including the following:

  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • A lack of energy
  • Muscle tension
  • Aches and pains
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • Frequent illnesses, such as colds
  • Insomnia
  • A lack of libido
  • Cold sweats
  • General nervousness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Constant dry mouth
  • Grinding teeth
  • Clenched jaw

As you can see, there are many ways in which stress can affect the body, and these are just simple physical manifestations.

Most of these effects aren’t harmful to your overall health and can be easily rectified by eliminating or minimizing stress.

However, some of those symptoms, such as insomnia, frequent colds, and teeth grinding can have more serious ramifications in the future.

Emotional Manifestations of Stress

Stress is an emotional thing, and it is very closely linked to the brain.

Stress does produce physical manifestations, but it does all start with the brain; experiencing too much stress can deeply affect your mental health, your state of mind, and your emotions.

People who experience stress don’t always show physical signs of it, and if this is the case, there are likely emotional and mental health manifestations that may occur.

The following are examples of how stress can affect the body in terms of emotional well-being and mental health.

  • People who experience high levels of stress often feel like they are not in control of their lives, and may have a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. This in itself is a type of stress, and it’s like a cycle of stress causing more stress
  • People who are under constant stress often display abnormal behavior, often being moody, agitated, and suffering from frequent mood swings
  • If you are stressed, something that may happen is that you can never relax and just cool down for the day. Stress can make your mind race and it can make you constantly think about problems or issues, and even trivial things can seem like big problems
  • People who are stressed, due to a variety of reasons, such as a lack of energy and being moody, often avoid other people
  • Stress may also cause feelings of decreased self-esteem and it can make people feel worthless. People who have low self-esteem tend to overthink everything, which by itself can then lead to more stress

What is interesting to note here is that, as you can see, stress can lead to many mental and emotional issues, which in themselves can be considered forms of stress.

It’s a vicious cycle, with stress causing emotional problems that then cause more stress. As you will see later on, chronic stress can have serious impacts on your health, especially in the long run.

Behavioral Manifestations of Stress

Human behavior does stem from emotion to a certain degree. While the above section was about emotional manifestations, emotions do not always lead to action or changes in behavior.

However, there are many instances where stress can affect emotions and mental health to the point where it may change a person’s behavior. Below are examples of behavioral manifestations of stress.

  • People who are stressed out will often avoid important responsibilities, usually, because the stress of those responsibilities can be downright overwhelming, which can then lead to total avoidance
  • Stress often causes people to seek a method of relief, a way of feeling good, even if just for a few minutes, and yes, for many people this often means turning to drugs and alcohol. Addiction is more often a result of stress than people like to admit
  • Simple nervous behaviors can also be a result of stress, things like pacing around, nail-biting, nervous ticks, and other such things
  • A big behavioral effect of stress on the human body can go two ways, either overeating or a lack of appetite, and both aren’t healthy.
How Does Stress Affect the Body

Cognitive Manifestations of Stress

Whereas above we were talking about how stress affects emotions and behavior, here we will discuss how stress affects cognition – your brain’s ability to function properly.

People who suffer from stress may suffer from the following cognitive effects.

  • A lack of judgment
  • Issues remembering
  • Problem-solving issues
  • Pessimism
  • Disorganization
  • A lack of focus and concentration

Long-Term Effects of Stress

We have gone over all of the short-term physical, mental, behavioral, and cognitive manifestations of stress. However, what does this mean and how do these factors come together to affect long-term health?

Well, the unfortunate reality is that the above symptoms, especially a combination of them, can lead to some pretty serious consequences in the long run.

Weight Issues

One of the leading long-term effects of stress has to do with your weight. If you eat too much because you are stressed, this can lead to obesity, which can then lead to various issues such as heart diseases, diabetes, and other related illnesses.

On the other hand, a lack of eating and constant stress can result in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, both of which can be deadly. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and more.

Cardiovascular Disease

One of the biggest long-term consequences of stress, as you might know, has to do with the cardiovascular system.

High levels of stress over a long period can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, abnormal heart rhythms, and other deadly conditions.

Mental Health Issues

Yet another long term effect of stress on the human body is the development of mental health issues or the worsening of pre-existing issues.

A lack of sleep, high levels of emotional stress, decreased endorphin production, and other symptoms of stress can lead to the development or worsening of depression, anxiety, and even more serious mental health issues such as personality disorders.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Suffering from high levels of stress over a long period can also lead to gastrointestinal issues – constantly having an upset stomach, not eating right, and not sleeping right can then lead to the improper digestion of food, nutrient deficiencies, and more.

Moreover, suffering from constant stress can then lead to conditions such as gastritis, GERD, ulcers, and more.

Skin and Hair

Long-term stress can also have other physical manifestations, such as hair loss, eczema, acne, psoriasis, and other related issues.

Sexual Performance

Stress can decrease the libido in both men and women, but it may also lead to premature ejaculation, impotence, and other related issues, particularly in men.


As you can see, stress is a very serious thing, and it can have dozens of effects on the human body.

There are many physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral manifestations of stress, and in the long run, it can lead to some very serious mental and physical health issues.

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