Chronic stress is a condition wherein you experience stress for a prolonged period of time. Sometimes chronic stress can result from frequent bouts of stress as well. The symptoms of chronic stress are different from those of acute or severe stress due to the differences in the physiological responses that occur.
When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds to prepare the body for an emergency. This causes the body to release epinephrine that creates an immediate fight or flight response by stimulating the autonomic nervous system. In normal conditions or acute stress, the body reverts to its normal relaxed state and resumes normal functioning as soon as the threat is averted. However, if you perceive the threat to be constant and continuous, it results in symptoms. This condition is a long term problem that keeps the body in a continuous state of emergency. For this the body releases hormones like glucocorticoids and cortisol to enable the body to counter long term crisis.
The effect of these hormones lasts much longer and is manifested in various ways physical, psychological, behavioral and emotional. These have been listed below:
High stress levels can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, sleeplessness, palpitations and fatigue. These can potentially progress into serious ailments like:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Varicose veins
Mental symptoms of chronic stress include memory problems, poor judgment and excessive worrying and anger. Potentially these can progress to:
- Panic disorders
Emotional symptoms are a direct result of tension and stress. These include:
- Temperamental and changeable moods
- Short temper
- Feeling on edge all the time
- Feelings of loneliness and isolation
Behavioral symptoms basically result from emotional symptoms. Since you are constantly under stress you may tend to isolate yourself from others. Visible symptoms include nail biting, pacing, teeth grinding or jaw clenching. You tend to overreact to minor problems and pick fights with others. As there is a perennial feeling of being overwhelmed you may start neglecting responsibilities.
It is important to be aware of the symptoms since chronic stress needs medical attention immediately. While short term stress is unavoidable and not something to worry about, chronic stress can take an excessive toll on your system and needs immediate attention.
If you observe at least three out of the symptoms mentioned above, consult a physician to rule out the possibility of any other ailment that may be causing these symptoms. If other causes are ruled out using some techniques to reduce and manage stress must be explored.