Everyone gets stressed out now and then, but chronic stress causes much more wear and tear on the body than most people realize.
Chronic stress is a hard thing to describe to family, friends, and sometimes even doctors. They can't see it like they would a broken arm or a flesh wound, which may cause some to doubt its very existence.
However, anxiety is a very real disorder that effects 18 percent of the American population. When it rears its ugly head, so do many other physical side effects. Here are 10 of the most common.
1. Heart disease
You know that saying, "You're going to give me a heart attack?" Well, anxiety and panic attacks might actually do that. High blood pressure and weakened heart muscles are both side effects of stress that raise your chances of having a heart attack and/or developing cardiovascular disease.
2. Loss of libido
With all these negative things happening in your body, it's not a big surprise that your libido can suffer. Part of this is because your hormones aren't functioning properly, and another is that your mind and body are distracted. It's important to communicate with your partner and remember that you don't "owe" anyone sex.
3. Brain damage
Years of extreme stress and anxiety can lead to brain damage, particularly early-onset Alzheimer's. It's been found that the cortisol that's released during stressful periods actually kills the hippocampus, leading to loss of memory and premature brain aging.
4. Weakened immune system
If you suffer from frequent colds and infections, stress could be to blame. As Calm Clinic explains, our bodies have retained instincts from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. When we come in contact with extreme stressors, our bodies assume that we are facing an attack and disperse cortisol to reduce inflammation. This often turns off the ability to fight common viruses and infections under the assumption that something even more distressing is coming. Over time, these factors contribute to a severely weakened immune system.
5. Weight gain or loss
Some people lose their appetite when stressed while others eat to forget about their problems. Either way, rapid weight gain or loss is a shock to the body. Most dangerous is belly fat, which increases one's risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
6. Hair loss
Hair loss can occur when your body alerts hair to stop growing or prepares more hairs than usual to fall out. Some people might also pull their hair out without even realizing it.
7. Low energy
The more stressed your mind is, the more stressed your body becomes. Once you're in this cycle, it's easy to fall prey to chronic fatigue. Symptoms include never feeling rested, being constantly exhausted, and finding even small tasks daunting. The root cause of it all is stress.
Who hasn't gotten a headache after worrying about something all day long? For those with chronic stress, these headaches can be constant and troublesome. They sometimes even develop into chronic migraines. If you're suffering from daily headaches, talk to your doctor immediately, as it can be a sign of a more serious condition.
9. Stomach problems
Stomach pain is one of the most common side effects of stress, but it can take many forms. Cramping, diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting, the list goes on and on. If stomach pain continues long term, it can lead to ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
10. Full-blown depression
Stress and depression are two very different beasts, but they often work hand-in-hand. Chronic stress leads to more bad days, which leads to negative bodily effects, leading to more stress, and eventually, there you are in the thick of depression. Symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, anger, guilt, and thoughts of suicide. In these cases, seek help immediately.