Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain caused by adverse circumstances.
At one point or another, most people deal with feelings of stress. In fact, one study found that 33% of adults reported experiencing high levels of perceived stress.
The condition is associated with a long list of physical and mental symptoms.
Any mental and or physical response evident in an individual to stimulus, that is a physically or emotionally taxing stimulus or demand, originating from an internal or external source can be termed stress. Brief periods of stress and motions of tension are unavoidable and in our evolution as humans, we adapted to limited stress and adjusted well to it, persistent stress is a very different matter and if it occurs regularly, physical and mental health are adversely affected in the long term and stress that is constant is very unhealthy.
Personal problems and disappointments like financial troubles, family relationship problems and job pressures can all induce stress in an individual, stress is also caused as a response to traumatic events, both physical ones such as bodily injuries and illness or mental ones like death in a family.
In evolutionary terms we humans have a “flight or fight” response controlled by the brain to any potential danger or unpleasant situation we may face, it includes the secretion of certain hormones namely adrenaline or norardrenaline into the body from the adrenal glands, this is done to prepare the individual either to run or to fight it out.
The hormones such as the action hormone adrenaline and different types of the other stress hormones, are all released from two organs called the adrenal glands situated in the top part of the kidneys, these so called stress hormones have one main function, it is to bolster the body’s stamina and to enable it to have strength and release controlled burst of energy either for use in confrontation or in escape.
Long-term exposure to stress on the system brings a lot of attendant problems and disorders in the person. Absolute exhaustion may overcome the person in the long term as accumulating and chronically high levels of the stress hormones exhaust both the nutrient and energy stores of the body completely.
Physical side effects of stress include raised blood pressure levels and high levels of cholesterol, which can become simply unmanageable and often disrupt heart functioning and cause damage to the blood vessels. The levels of sex hormones can plummet steeply and acid secretion in the stomach can zoom up uncontrollably leading to complications like peptic ulcers.
Mental competency can be depressed as glucose levels in the brain go very low and nervous tissue may undergo glucose starvation or deficits. The immune system of the person takes a combined hit from all these factors and can become considerably impaired and dysfunctional, this has attendant problems of its own resistance to pathogens, diseases and possible infection suffers.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may experience any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Complications Of Long-Term Stress
A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon