The Symptoms of Stress

In my last post I shared information about acute and chronic stress and how stress is wreaking havoc on our emotional and physical lives.  This week I want to share some symptoms of chronic stress that Ty Bollinger from The Truth About Cancer foundation shares:


  • Worry, racing thoughts, or anxiety
  • Poor judgment, inability to make decisions, or lessened concentration
  • Lapses in memory, neglecting responsibilities, or procrastination
  • Negative thoughts that lead to sadness, depression, loneliness, or feelings of isolation
  • Feeling overwhelmed, irritated, agitated, or easily angered
  • Unexplained mood swings or panic attacks
  • Lack of interest in sex or other activities that once brought pleasure
  • Sexual dysfunction or unexplained problems with menstruation or fertility
  • Frequent illnesses such as colds, flus, or stomach upset
  • Unexplained aches, pain, stiffness, or headaches
  • Diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or other gastrointestinal distress
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Chest pains, difficulty breathing, or rapid heart rate
  • Eating too little or too much, unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Problems with hair, skin, or nails
  • Dependence on tobacco, alcohol, or drugs

Remember, in last week's blog post, stress is normal, but long-term stress that doesn't offer any relief to your body, can lead to diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cognitive decline, and yes, that awful disease known as cancer.


I shared last week that the fight or flight response released the hormones to allow your body to deal with the situation at hand and then once the situation calms down, so does your body.  But if you remain in this state, your body can no longer tell the difference between an actual emergency.  You become stuck in that "on" position.  Your body is always in that constant state of alert.  Your heart pounds, your body is tense, your digestive system is messed up and your immune response keeps producing the adrenaline and cortisol.


There are physiological  results from chronic stress.  These are the top 9 that Ty shares in his The Truth About Cancer article:


  1. The human brain is the first organ to suffer.  Excessive stress hormones will cause destruction to the hippocampal region that is similar to brain damage.  A disruption in your sleep cycle, inability to concentrate, racing thoughts, memory trouble, or feeling as if you're constantly "out of it" are just a few of the effects.
  2. Your pituitary gland is the next casualty of long-term stress.  It controls almost all the other glands in the body that regulate your thyroid, metabolic processes, body temperature and perspiration, heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and urination.  You may experience fatigue or low energy, low appetite , frequent urination, and a ripple effect in every cell as your thyroid floods your body with a substance called thyroxine that depletes nutrient levels rapidly.
  3. Your heart is one of the hardest hit organs during chronic stress.   Blood vessel constriction during stress response means the heart must work harder to pump blood.  The flood of cortisol, thyroxine and LDL (bad) cholesterol causes plaque to build in the arterial walls.  Long-term stress also changes how your body handles the clotting process.  All of these conditions leave a person under constant stress at serious risk for heart attack.
  4. Your gut is begging you to reduce the stress in your life.  Heartburn,  poor absorption of nutrients, system-wide inflammation, bloating, gas, and constipation or diarrhea are just a few side effects of stress on the bowels.
  5. Your reproductive system depends on a proper balance of hormones.  Too much cortisol in the blood means that your body doesn't have enough progesterone for your reproductive system.  Instead, it is being used in cortisol production and that means it is unable to maintain optimal conditions in the uterus for pregnancy.  It will also negatively affect sexual drive and over time can lead to infertility.
  6. Your adrenal glands never have a moment to rest.  They are responsible for the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline - hormones released with cortisol during stress situations.  They push your heart to work harder, tighten your muscles, and slow down digestion.  You may feel exhausted, but also be unable to relax.  The glands themselves begin to break down from overuse and this leads to adrenal fatigue, a condition that manifests as weakness, mood disorders, suppression of the immune system, and an imbalance of necessary hormones.
  7. Weight control depends on the proper processing of stress.  Experts and nutritionists agree that excess cortisol in the system triggers random cravings, overeating, and too much glucose in the bloodstream.  When you don't get rid of it through exercise, your body stores it as fat - usually around the belly area.
  8. Chronic stress weakens your immune system.  This makes it harder for you to fight off infection and disease.  Over time, it can lead to autoimmune conditions that leave your body defenseless and make it harder to detect abnormal cancer cells before they begin to divide and spread out of control.
  9. Chronic stress results in severe inflammation from your brain to your gut.  Inflammation has been named in hundreds of scientific studies around the world as a risk factor in all serious disease.  Including cancer.  Does stress lead to cancer?  Absolutely, it does.

Ty Bollinger's article that I've quoted here is based on references he includes in his article.  This one particular study on stress interests me personally because my husband suffers the affects of chronic stress.  Stay tuned for next week's post where I will share from his article the sources of acute stress and the sources of chronic stress, then the 4th and final post on this subject will address the fact that stress is not a necessity.  There are tools that allow you to control and eliminate stress that will benefit you in your every day life.  Stay tuned :-)