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What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

At Priory, we understand that stress can have a detrimental impact on multiple areas of your life and can affect you both physically and mentally. While certain levels of stress are normal and manageable – and can actually be beneficial - too much stress can cause a whole host of problems. It can have a negative effect on your feelings, emotions, behaviour and thoughts, and can result in a wide range of stress symptoms including poor sleep, irritability, anxiety, headaches, and even digestive problems, all of which can be difficult to cope with. The signs and symptoms of stress can vary from person to person, and also according to the severity of the stress that you’re experiencing.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress symptoms can be categorised into psychological, behavioural/social and physical symptoms, with some of the most common symptoms of stress including:

Physical symptoms of stress:

  • Appetite changes – either increased or reduced appetite which may also result in weight fluctuations
  • Being restless or unable to sit still
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Low energy
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Unexplained digestive problems
  • Frequent infections and colds
  • Sexual dysfunction, including reduced libido and erectile difficulties
  • Hyperventilating
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Feeling dizzy and faint
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling and shaking

Behavioural/social symptoms of stress:

  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Avoiding situations that cause you stress, which may result in you becoming isolated and withdrawn
  • Losing interest in things that you once enjoyed
  • Becoming forgetful and disorganised
  • Decline in school or work performance as a result of reduced concentration and focus
  • Relationship problems

Psychological symptoms of stress:

  • Anxiety, and a constant sense of worry or dread
  • Depression
  • Feeling irritable, impatient and angry, and often taking it out on the people who are closest to you
  • Feeling as though you can’t ‘switch off’ or relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed and as though you have lost control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling lonely and worthless
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tearfulness – finding that you are crying more than usual
  • Poor concentration and an inability to focus
  • Panic attacks
  • Severe, sudden anxiety symptoms
  • Drugs and alcohol abuse as a way of coping with stress and attempting to self-medicate. Substance abuse may hinder your recovery and could lead to further problems

What are the long-term effects of stress?

Without specialist stress treatment, chronic stress can precipitate or exacerbate any existing mental health conditions and cause a whole host of additional long-term problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Long-term sexual dysfunction
  • Skin and hair problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders

Page medically reviewed by Dr Patrick Mbaya (MB ChB, MSc, MD, FRCPsych, Cert. Psychopharmacology), Lead Consultant for Addictions at Priory Hospital Altrincham, in February 2022.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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