Stress: Symptoms and Causes

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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Stress has become a common problem for people all over the world. It not only affects the health of a person, but it also affects the behavioral, emotional, and cognitive sides of a person.

What is Stress?

Stress can mean different things to different people. However, it is mostly used in the context of psychology and biology. Under biological conditions, stress is related to the biochemical imbalances that are the result of a psychological disturbance taking place in in a person. The goal of the body (chemically) is to maintain a steady state or equilibrium at most times. There are psychological aspects of stress as well. Psychologically, each person is different; so is their response to stress. Events or situations such as war, famine, and abuse during childhood can lead to a stress-related disease known as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress in our bodies can also be aggravated due to the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, prescribed drugs, and narcotics.

Stress workplace

Causes

Stress can be traced back to our early days of evolution. It was stress that helped and is still helping animals to stay out of danger. This concept developed by Walter Cannon in the early 1920’s is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, where an animal under attack generates energy rapidly with which it can either fight back or flee from the situation.

Today in our office and corporate environments, one cannot opt for either “fight” or “flight”. The accumulation of chemicals such as cortisol and norepinephrine takes place in our body during stressful conditions. These chemicals are not flushed out easily and they remain in our bodies causing health issues. Some of the most common conditions that result from stress include anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, dizzy spells, nervousness, cramps, acidity, heartburn, and backaches. These can be either immediate or short-term condition.

Stress can result in long-term conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, a high level of bad cholesterol, and poor heart conditions. It is also known to affect a person’s immune system, in the long run, making us susceptible to diseases. In some cases, stress has been traced back to a low functionality level of vaccinations.

Symptoms

Some symptoms to look for in terms of stress-related problems include the following.

  • Poor Memory: Stressed out people experience poor memory capacity. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol, which can affect the brain’s hippocampus area, which stores important information in the form of neural connections. Research indicates that cortisol can rupture the existing connections and destroy newly formed or currently forming connections. In other words, the stress hormone cortisol can result in a poor memory when it is exposed to the brain in extended or lengthy quantities.
  • Lack of Concentration: Under stressful conditions, the release of cortisol disrupts the formation of new memories, which is the reason why it is difficult to maintain concentration while under stress. Studies on lab-induced stress and cortisol ingestion suggest that the presence of cortisol both naturally and ingested, resulted in impaired memory.
  • Pessimistic Attitude: Pessimism or negativity is one of the symptoms seen in people suffering from stress.
  • Constant Worrying: Stressed out people often worry constantly for no apparent reason. Sometimes, the reason for worry could be a remote possibility, yet a good amount of energy is wasted in thinking about something that may never happen.
  • Constipation and Diarrhea: Constipation and diarrhea are also seen in people with stress. Stress causes the rectus muscles to tighten up, thereby leading to constipation. On the other hand, some people under stress can feel the opposite and may not be able to control the rectal muscles. There could also be situations where a person experiences both constipation and diarrhea in continuing cycles. Continued constipation and diarrhea cycles can lead to hemorrhoids or piles.
  • Faster Heartbeat and Chest Pain: People who are stressed and tense experience a faster heartbeat. This is due to anxiety, which arises from the subconscious thoughts about future uncertainties. This may lead to hypertension or high blood pressure. People suffering from uncontrolled high blood pressure have a greater chance of suffering from strokes.
  • Lack of Sex Drive: Lack of sex drive is yet another major symptom that people complain of whilst stressed. Stress and sex share a few connections in the form of hormones. It has been found that stress can have a direct relationship with diminishing or neutralizing hormones that are responsible for a person’s sex drive.
  • Eating Disorders: Eating disorders can also be categorized under stress-related disorders. Psychologically, there are two types of eaters. One is an emotional eater and the other is a restrictive eater. Emotional eaters tend to eat whenever they are stressed out, feeling sad, or during any frustrating moments. Restrictive eaters, on the other hand, tend to stay away from food when they are stressed out. They are also known to frequently diet and stop eating certain types of foods. Thus, they might suffer from malnutrition.
  • Sleep Disorders: Sleeping disorders arise out of over-thinking about the day’s events or future events before going to sleep. Other factors, such as over-working, anxiety, caffeine, and tobacco consumption are also known to create sleep disorders.
About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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