Effects of stress on the body
Stress – what it does to your body!
Stress is stressful not just for our minds but also for our bodies. We know some of the problems stress can accelerate, but it’s important to be aware of all of them. So here’s a comprehensive list of all the possible negative effects stress can have on us – phew! Brace yourself, the list runs long.
- Bad for your immunity. Stress decreases your immunity and makes you prone to infections. When you are stressed out, your immune system becomes weak and hence you are prone to picking up an infection, which may not happen when your resistance is good. Common colds, the flu and even the progression from HIV positive to full-blown AIDS can be blamed on stress.
- Makes you tired. Stress can make you fatigued and you may complain of various muscle pains. This is basically the body’s way of making you sit up and take notice. Your body is telling you to stop; pain is the language the body uses to get your attention to its sad state and clear up the mess.
- Stress and ulcers. Ulcers in the oesophagus and stomach can be caused or exacerbated due to stress. This is because stress causes the release of hydrochloric acid from the stomach, which contributes to acidity and in the long run may cause peptic ulcers to form.
- Stress headaches. Stress causes blood vessels in the head region to constrict and thereby leads to headaches. The most common type is the ‘tension headache‘ but stress can even trigger a migraine in those susceptible to it.
- Lead to chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses, like asthma, which causes narrowing of the air passages in the lungs and some skin conditions like eczema (extremely dry skin associated with itching) have been linked to stress.
- Hormone imbalances. Stress affects the hormones in the body and a common effect is hyperthyroidism. In this condition the thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormones, which lead to symptoms like palpitations, tremors and insomnia.
- The rise of lifestyle diseases. Lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension are all related to stress. To deal with stress you may reach out for unhealthy and high-calorie foods, which leads to obesity; stress affects insulin production by the pancreas which in turn controls blood sugar; and stress causes the blood pressure to go higher thus causing uncontrolled hypertension.
- Bad for your sex life. A stressful lifestyle is definitely to blame for lack of desire for sex, erection problems and low sperm count, which may lead to infertility in the long run.
- Not good for the heart. Stress may directly or indirectly contribute to heart ailments. Direct stress may be a cause for heart attacks while indirectly stress may cause heart failure and arrhythmias (irregular heart beats).
- It even affects arthritis. Stress also plays a role in arthritis. Most people having arthritis will remember a stressful event that brought the ailment on or a stressful event at the time they were diagnosed.
- Mouth sores. Stress is blamed for poor oral hygiene which in turn may cause dental plaque formation and gum disease. Mouth sores may also result from undue stress.
- Stress and hair loss. Hair loss increases during stressful times. Male pattern balding or alopecia areata, as well as telogen effluvium — where multiple hair cells enter the resting phase and cause significant hair loss are both associated with stress.
- Bad for your stomach. A stomach ache which comes on and off and interferes with the daily functioning of one’s life can be pinpointed to stress.
- Keep you up at nights. Stress interferes with normal sleep patterns and may keep you tossing and turning in bed. You may be unable to go to bed or may wake up earlier than normal because of the stress.
- Stress and poor breathing. Stress hampers your breathing and, therefore, the amount of oxygen entering your body. Lack of oxygen to the brain leads to inability to concentrate and focus on mental tasks and productivity at work may suffer.
Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician
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- How Stress Affects Men
- Get RESTED: Effective strategies to manage stress
- Introduction to Stress: Its physiological, mental & behavioural impact
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