7 Strange Things Stress Can Do to Your Body


For some, stress feels like your heart is about to explode out of your chest. Other people experience stress as a rash on their skin or notice their hair falling out more frequently. 

Despite the fact that stress is a part of life, it isn't always a bad thing. There are times when it gives you the motivation you need to meet a deadline or perform well. The effects of unmanaged or prolonged stress can be devastating to your body, resulting in unexpected aches, pains, and other symptoms. 

“Stress doesn’t necessarily cause certain conditions, but it can make the symptoms of those conditions worse,” says internal medicine physician Richard Lang. “When physical symptoms worsen, they may in turn increase a person’s level of stress, which results in a vicious cycle.”

Various parts of your body can be affected by stress. According to Dr. Lang, stress can negatively affect the body in the following ways:

1. Muscles and joints

It is possible for stress to cause pain, tightness, or soreness in your muscles, as well as spasms of pain. Because stress lowers your threshold for pain, it can cause flare-ups of arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), when you experiance stress, your muscles tense up altogether. Your muscles release tension when stress is gone. 

2. Heart and lungs

Believe it or not, stress can affect your heart even if you’re trying to meet a deadline at work, for example. Your heart rate can increase in these situations. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol may make heart and lung conditions worse. They include heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, strokes, and asthma. Shortness of breath and rapid breathing can also be caused by lung conditions and stress. 

See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience pain or tightness in your chest or heart palpitations. 

3. Skin and hair

New skin and hair products seem to dominate today’s ad space. However, if you’re stressed, those products won’t do much to help the condition of your skin and hair. Stress can aggravate skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. The condition can also cause hives, itching, excessive sweating, and even hair loss.

4. Gut

Have you ever had a stomachache due to stress? A correlation exists between stress and digestion - from simple symptoms like pain, gas, diarrhea, and constipation to more complex conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux.

When stressed, you may have a tendency to eat more or less, which can lead to unhealthy diets. If the stress is severe enough, you may even vomit too. 

5. Shoulders, head and jaw

The effects of stress in your body can move through the tension triangle, which includes your shoulders, head and jaw.

“Stress can trigger tension headaches, tightness in the neck and jaw, and knots and spasms in your neck and shoulders,” says Dr. Lang. “It also may contribute to TMJ, a jaw disorder.”

Ask your doctor about remedies such as stress management, counseling or anxiety-reducing medicine.

6. Immune system

Stress weakens your body's defenses, so you need a strong immune system to fight disease. 

“It makes you more likely to catch colds or the flu, for example,” warns Dr. Lang. “It also may make autoimmune conditions such as lupus and inflammatory bowel disease worse.”

Take care of your immune system by boosting it with healthy eating habits and exercise. Most importantly, training your immune system through stress reduction can do wonders in keeping you healthy. 

7. Mental health

The stress you experience can lead to depression and reduce your enthusiasm for activities you usually enjoy - from everyday hobbies to sex. Stress also leads to poor eating habits and less exercise, which exacerbates symptoms.

It isn't a personal failing to feel down due to stress. Almost everyone experiences this at some point, so don't be afraid to seek help if you need it. 

“We can treat the symptoms,” says Dr. Lang. “The real key is to find and treat the cause of the problem.”

Together with your doctor, you can achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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