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Chronic Stress and Their Effect on Our Body

Chronic Stress and Their Effect on Our Body

Updated on May 29, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

Chronic Stress - Causes, Types, Examples, and Treatment

Chronic stress can have a huge impact on your health and on your lifestyle. It can cause several severe health conditions like high blood pressure or heart-related issues.

Chronic stress is a biological reaction that can happen if there are some constant threats present in your life.

Stress can cause your body to release certain hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to prepare your body for taking any responses that are needed.

Any severe threats from the environment like a high-risk job or any financial compilations can cause chronic stress. 

Chronic Stress Infographic

Chronic Stress and Their Effect on Our Body
Chronic Stress and Their Effect on Our Body

What is chronic stress 

Chronic stress is a prolonged feeling of stress that can have negative effects on our bodies. In our everyday life, we experience a lot of pressure from our family or our professional life, which can cause chronic stress in our bodiesDisorganized. 

As chronic stress lasts for a long time in our body it can have a huge effect on our physical condition. Every system of our body can be directly or indirectly affected somehow by chronic stress.

When our body is exposed to several stressors in a higher frequency in a very short interval our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) does not get enough chance to initiate any relaxation response and our body remains in a state of physiological arousal. 

Test of Chronic Stress

Chronic stress generally boosts the secretion of cortisol levels in your blood. The cortisol blood test can help you to understand the cortisol level in your blood. Other than that a professional can help you to diagnose Chronic stress conditions by identification of the symptoms you have. 

Chronic stress disorder: Signs and symptoms 

Chronic stress affects both our body and our mind negatively. It can develop several physical as well as psychological symptoms that can affect our daily life.

This can result in the inability to perform our daily chores smoothly. 

The symptoms may differ from individual to individual according to their condition and their severity.

Here are some common physical symptoms that can help to diagnose if someone has chronic stress.

  • Aches and pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in sleep
  • Low energy
  • Loss of control
  • Frequent sickness and infections
  • Muscle tension
  • Upsetting stomach
  • Change of appetite
  • Change of weight

Some common psychological symptoms to diagnose chronic stress

  •  Irritable mood
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Disorganised and rapid thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Low self esteem
  • Nervousness
  •  Loss of sexual desires
  • Forgetting things
  • Anxiety
  • Change in social behavior
  • Unfocused thinking
  • Change in emotional responses
  • Excessive abuse of alcohol or drugs

Identification of chronic stress is really difficult because it is a long-lasting condition. You need to ask yourself certain questions and answer carefully to diagnose chronic stress. 

Causes of chronic stress

Chronic stress responses are very common and frequent in our daily life. Every small or big incident in our life like getting late for work to loneliness can always keep our body in a threatening position and can create chronic stress.

As our body is always in a threatening position our fight or flight response can reduce which can cause several physical or emotional sicknesses in our body. 

In each and every step of our life, we experience certain stressors that can cause chronic stress and this is a never-ending process.

You need to improve your coping mechanisms in order to prevent your body from experiencing certain effects of chronic stress. 

Example of Chronic Stress

There are several sources that can be responsible for creating chronic stress in our body but stressors from a specific domain can create any type of chronic stress in our body.

For example, stressors from your professional life can create stress in your personal life.

Types of chronic stress

Stressors may have several domains but chronic stress can be categorized into four different domains. 

1. Emotional stress (frustration, anger)

2. Work stress (work pressure, challenges)

3. Relationship stress (relationship with parents, relationship office colleagues)

4. Environmental stress (your home and your workplace environment)

The impact of chronic stress on our health

If chronic stress is not diagnosed in time and is not treated properly then it can cause severe health conditions later in your life. Chronic stress can develop some complicated diseases in your body.

Here is a list of health conditions that chronic stress can create.

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Complications in the immune system
  • Complications in the respiratory system
  • Insomnia
  • Burning sensation
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Different autoimmune disease
  • Complications in the gastrointestinal system
  • Irritation in skin
  • Weight change
  • Ulcer
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Eczema
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Acne
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia 

The effect of chronic stress can be really complicated. We need to learn several coping strategies that help us to improve our condition with professional therapy. 

Acute vs Chronic stress

Acute stress is a type of stress that can result from certain specific events or conditions that can involve unpredictability and can be a threat to our ego.

Acute stress is short-term stress that does not last for a long time. 

On the other hand, chronic stress can create from small or big incidents in our life. It is long-term stress and has a huge effect on our physical or mental health.

Chronic stress can cause several complications in our bodies. 

As acute stress does not last much long our body can cope up with this type of stress easily and it does not affect our health. 

Chronic stress stays in our body for a long time and our body is unable to cope with that type of stress easily. Chronic stress can cause several complications in our physical and mental health. 

Acute stress does not have any long-term effect on our body whereas chronic stress can create certain conditions in our body that can reflect through our body years later.

Chronic stress treatment

Here we are going to discuss some treatment processes for chronic stress which can help you overcome your condition.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can help to identify all your negative thoughts and negative emotions that can be responsible for creating certain stress in your life.

Through this therapy process, you will be able to work on all your issues.

This therapeutic process can help you to modify your negative thoughts with something sensible and positive. You can adopt some new realistic thoughts that can help you in every step of your life. 

This modification of your thoughts plays an important role in improving your behavior and your responses to certain events. 

This therapy process can also help you to learn how to cope up with any stressful situation and how you can manage your responses and reactions to any kind of stress.  

Mindfulness based stress reaction (MBSR)

Mindfulness-based reaction or MBSR can help you to use the mindfulness technique to work with chronic stress. Meditation can also be used in this particular therapy to help you to work on your coping skills. 

Both mindfulness and meditation will be able to help you to deal with chronic stress and to improve your management techniques for chronic stress. 

Chronic stress medication

If your condition is getting out of hand then medication can really help you to reduce the symptom of chronic stress.

If you are unable to control your condition with other therapeutic measures, several anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications can really help you to work on your reflex.

If chronic stress has already affected your body and your health, the medication prescribed by a doctor can help you to sleep and to reduce all other complications that you may face soon in your life.

These medications can help you to improve your condition of the heart and can also reduce your stomach pain or if there is anything else wrong with your body. 

Coping strategies for chronic stress

Though you can take all the help you need from mental health professionals, working on some coping strategies can always help you to improve all your negative thoughts and negative qualities all by yourself.

Understanding the signs and symptoms. 

The first step to developing a coping mechanism against chronic stress is that you need to learn more about the reasons that have caused you chronic stress which has affected your health. 

You need to give all your efforts to find out the factors that can be responsible for inducing the stress. 

The indication may change with time but you will be able to understand all the signs and symptoms and you will find a way to manage all of them.

Speaking to friends and family

You need to share your thoughts and your feelings with your friends and family. You can seek emotional support from the people you really love. 

The people who generally care a lot for you can stand by your side at every step of your life and will help you in any complicated situation. 

You will receive emotional support and love from them. Their company will motivate you to take proper actions to manage your chronic stress and get back to your healthy life. 

Trying mindfulness

The method of mindfulness can be really beneficial in some cases in your life. You will be able to deal with any complicated situation if you really try to adapt the method of mindfulness. 

This method can introduce medication, several relaxation techniques. This can also help you to create awareness in life and make you aware of your surroundings.

You can be prepared to handle any situation in life and this can improve all your personal qualities in life. 

The method of mindfulness has a huge effect and positive response against any psychological condition like anxiety or depression. 

Identifying triggers

You can not always avoid the trigger points of stress in your life. If you can notice some specific triggers of chronic stress for your life this can help you to develop different coping strategies and stress management techniques in life. 

Exercising regularly

Exercise can help you to gain relaxation in your life. Relaxation is very much important to reduce anxiety and depression or any other psychological condition. 

You need to learn some specific exercises which can play an important role in your stress management technique. 

Regular exercise like cycling, running, push-ups, swimming or meditation can really help you to improve your quality, increase your stamina and reduce the effect of any stressful situation. 

Improving sleep quality

If you are unable to sleep properly at night that can be the reason for severe stress in your life and cause some other issues too.

Proper sleep is very much important to avoid any kind of health complications in your life. 

An adult needs a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every day. A night of proper sleep can help you to deal with most of the problems in your life. Try to maintain a timetable for waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night.

Avoid taking any kind of stimulant like caffeine, eating junk food, and doing heavy physical activity before going to bed.

It can have a negative effect on your sleeping pattern and this will reduce your ability to have a deep sleep. 

Importance of coping strategies 

Coping strategies are always very important to manage your stress level along with the treatment process.

Developing several coping mechanisms will help you to work on your issues all by yourself without asking for anybody’s help.

Provides quick stress relief

Several coping strategies can help you to react quickly once you experience certain threats in your body.

Your body will give you a chance to recover soon after the threat enters your body. You need to approach all your issues with a relaxed and free mind. 

Whenever you are trying to make some new choices in your life you are trying to make some better choices so that you can avoid creating more stressful situations in your life which can affect your mind and body.

Learning different coping mechanisms will help you to manage all your problems and reduce the threats that you may experience soon in your life. 

Develops stress resilience

Longer-term different healthy habits are always very much important because these can create some resilience and can give you a chance to break away from your stress. 

As you are experiencing constant stress sometimes you may get confused about your stress level and the steps that you are going to take to reduce all your complications. 

Some of the habits may include meditation, maintaining a journal, proper exercise, etc. if you continue ant of the techniques on a regular basis it will be easier for you to deal with situations in your life.

Creates new coping skills

Changing how you respond to stress can help you as well. Taking several steps to reduce the stressful situations you are experiencing (saying no more often, for example) and to change your perspective (reminding yourself of the resources you can use and the strength you possess) both can help.

Approaching stress from a proactive stance can help reduce chronic stress.

Wrap up 

Chronic stress can be created for every small or big factor that is present in your environment or your inner self can also be responsible for creating chronic stress.

Chronic stress is difficult to identify and complicated to manage. 

Chronic stress can affect your emotions as well as your physical health negatively and this can also cause several complications in your physical and mental health.

You can develop some complicated disorders later in your life from chronic stress. 

Though it is difficult to manage and complicated to deal with, with proper guidance and creativity you will be able to develop proper coping mechanisms which can help you to reduce the effect of it.

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