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What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is a medical condition where the body releases stress hormones as a result of repeated exposure to stressful situations. It can affect your mind and body in the long run. In fact, many scientists believe that the human stress response system should not be constantly activated. Unfortunately, chronic stress can disrupt almost every other system in your body. Chronic stress can cause weakened immune systems, increase your risk of having a heart problems or a stroke, speed up ageing, and even upset your reproductive and digestive systems.
Table of Contents
Types of Chronic Stress
Just like any kind of stress, chronic stress, too, has many types. There are 4 broad categories into which this stress can be divided:
- Emotional stress – Any difficult emotions like anger, guilt, anxiety, or extreme sadness can contribute to feeling chronically stressed. Inability to control emotions might lead to unhealthy behaviors and physical reactions
- Environmental stress – Stress caused due to environmental factors like your place, work, society, neighborhood, etc can also lead to stress.
- Relationship stress – Humans are social beings, forming associations and relationships are an important part of life and living. Relations with friends, significant others, family, colleagues, peers, etc can lead to optimal functioning or stress.
- Work stress – In adult life, work takes up a big part of the daily routine. Any kind of stress and pressures associated with work, presentations, deadlines, etc can become chronic if not managed well beforehand.
Chronic Stress Symptoms
Some of the commonly seen chronic stress symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Extreme irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive problems
The severity and the type of each symptom vary from one person to the next. Besides the above-mentioned signs and symptoms you may also notice a change in libido, falling ill frequently, muscle aches, high blood pressure, and so on. If left untreated, chronic stress can lead to a range of mental and physical disorders over time.
Who Is At Risk?
Stress comes in different forms and affects people of different ages and from different walks of life. The degree of stress each person experiences depends largely on individual factors like their physical health, interpersonal relationships, responsibilities, work stress, sudden new changes in life, traumatic experiences, and so on. For example, a parent of one child might experience more stress than a parent with multiple children. However, studies have shown that people who do not have a strong support system are more prone to chronic stress. Rather than focusing on whether you have a chance of developing chronic stress, it is better to focus on chronic stress prevention, This includes removing yourself from stressful situations or staying away from people who tend to cause you stress and thereby reducing your chronic stress risk factor.
Chronic Stress Causes
Everyone reacts to stress differently. For some people, certain stress triggers can cause them to spiral out of control. Studies have shown that work stress is one of the most triggers. In fact, over 25% of people with chronic stress attribute it to work stress like:
- Working long hours
- Unhappy with your job
- Too much responsibility
- Unclear expectations
- Discrimination at work
Life also contributes to chronic stress in different ways like:
- Loss of a job
- Shifting to a new place
- Increases financial responsibilities
- Emotions problems
- Death of a loved one
- Chronic injury or illness
- Traumatic event
Any event that puts an added burden on you can cause you to feel stress. Even a visit to a urologist might make you feel extremely stressed. When you are constantly exposed to stressful situations you tend to develop chronic stress over time.
How is Chronic Stress Diagnosed?
The chronic stress doctor arrives at a chronic stress diagnosis after listening carefully to your signs and symptoms. They will also ask you plenty of questions related to your medical history, whether you are on any medication, recent events in your life, family medical history, and so on. Although there is no specific chronic stress test, the doctor will be able to arrive at a diagnosis based on your answers. Interestingly, most people experience chronic stress at one point or the other in their life. It is often brought on by sudden changes in their life, added responsibilities, and so on. Unfortunately, if the stress factors are not identified and removed, it can cause a heavy toll on your mental and physical health in the long run.
How Is Chronic Stress Treated?
According to medical professionals, chronic stress treatment involves identifying the underlying cause of stress. In some cases, the stress triggers might be apparent, while in other cases not so much. A skilled doctor can help chart the right course of treatment by talking to the patient and sort through the symptoms and emotions to find the root cause of stress. Once the reason for the stress has been identified, the patient is given tools to remove themselves from stress-inducing situations or stress causing people. Once they learn how to deal with stress, they will find that there is no need for any medicine for chronic stress. Cure.fit offers online video consultations with top doctors in the country to help you with your Chronic stress.
What is the Impact of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress symptoms and the impact they cause can be significant and can affect various different parts and aspects of life. Not only physical health but also mental health, this kind of stress can lead to severe dysfunction and troubles. It is said to alter the neural network system of the brain and can severely compromise the immune system. Here are some of the major impacts that chronic stress is known to cause:
- Imaging shows that the neural networks within the brain and the prefrontal cortex, in particular, are known to be reduced in size. This might lead to cognitive, emotional, or behavioral dysfunctions.
- Within the immune system, stress can cause it to become over-stimulated which can lead to the development of several diseases and health issues.
Chronic stress can also lead to multiple physical and mental health-related disorders like – heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, weakening of the immune system, IBS, autoimmune diseases, insomnia, depression, anxiety, skin irritations, respiratory defects, etc.
What are the Long Term Effects of Chronic Stress?
When the body’s coping mechanisms go haywire and seem out of control, the effects of chronic stress are seen. When the fight-or-flight response system in the human body remains activated, the heart rate and blood pressure levels are also on the rise. Long-term exposure to stress and the activation of these mechanisms can lead to disruptions in the functioning of the body. The increased exposure to the stress hormone, cortisol, can aggravate problems.
There are several long-term effects of stress that can impact the human body.
- Physical issues like feeling weak, tingling of the hands and legs, numbness in the limbs, headaches and stomach aches, etc become persistent
- Gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, acidity, pain in the abdomen, persistent nausea, etc are also commonly seen.
- Mental health is severely impacted as the development of symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD (in some cases), phobias, hopelessness, etc is seen
- Fatal conditions like heart diseases, blood pressure, stroke, etc are common
- Bodily changes such as hair fall, weight gain or weight loss, sinking in of the eyes
- Cognitive impairments like memory loss, concentration issues, procrastination, and many more.
How Can Chronic Stress be Prevented?
You can keep yourself safe from different types of chronic stress by surrounding yourself with a strong support system, indulging in hobbies, and making time for yourself. This will help relax and calm your mind, alleviating you of stress. In fact, this is the best chronic stress cure in the entire world.
What Are Some Examples of Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress can give rise to various severe mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. It can even develop cardiovascular diseases, including heart diseases, strokes, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, etc. If you have been facing chronic stress for the past few days, you can also feel nervous, tension, chest pain, and a racing heart. To prevent any unpleasant accident, it is best to contact a doctor and get treated for chronic stress.
What are Warning Signs of Chronic Stress?
The body gives you multiple signs highlighting chronic stress. Some signs include frequent cold and infections, low energy, headaches, lack of sexual desire, upset stomach, chest pain or a rapid heartbeat, insomnia, nervousness, and dry mouth. If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, we recommend visiting a doctor at the earliest.
What Does Chronic Stress Lead To?
Chronic stress gives rise to various short-term and long-term health problems. Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke are the most common chronic stress results. Besides these conditions, you can also be subjected to weight gain, memory loss, chronic fatigue syndrome, personality changes, fast aging, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. If you want to ideally keep yourself protected from such health conditions, always visit a doctor to start timely treatment for chronic stress.
How long does chronic stress last?
Chronic stress, in particular, can last for weeks or months. This is because it is ‘chronic’ in nature. Essentially, this type of stress does not leave the body easily and is associated with an increase in levels of cortisol and adrenaline at times. Both of these can cause other issues like high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, hypertension, migraines, etc.
Can stress affect your heart?
Yes, stress is known to affect the heart as it can create inflammation in the body which is linked to factors that may result in harm to the heart. High blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, blockages, etc can impact the heart which may lead to more severe issues like heart attacks, failure, difficulty breathing, and a few others.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.