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What Does Stress And Anxiety Do To The Body

Cortisol And Weight Gain

What Does Stress Do To Your Body?

Chronic stress can add pounds as well as worries. The chemical cortisol acts like a foot on the gas pedal of stress. It is also responsible for some of the physical changes stress can bring on, and some of these are unwanted, especially when stress lingers for weeks or months.

Cortisol puts a high demand on your body’s resources. You need this in the face of danger. But in the modern world stress is more likely to be caused by money problems than dangerous animals. This causes problems that can lead to unwelcome weight gain.

Since cortisol taxes your body’s energy stores, it also makes you hungry–especially for sugary and fatty foods that give you a quick burst of energy. If your stress isn’t prompting physical exercise in response, you’re likely to gain weight. What’s more, cortisol encourages your body to store excess energy as fat.

How much cortisol causes weight gain likely varies from person to person. Tests on sheep show that some are more responsive to cortisol than others. These high-cortisol responders eat more than other sheep when stressed and also gain more weight. Some researchers think this could help identify people who are prone to stress-related obesity.

How Does Stress And Anxiety Affect The Body

Anxiety can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, into your system. In the short term, this increases your pulse and breathing rate, so your brain can get more oxygen. This prepares you to respond appropriately to an intense situation.

The Effects Of Anxiety On Your Stomach

One of the most obvious symptoms of anxiety is how it affects your stomach. Anxiety can make your stomach hurt, make it feel like its churning, or make you feel incredibly nauseous. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common nausea causes. You may even find that you feel like vomiting or actually vomit. You may not feel like eating, either. Of course, this means now youre dealing with anxiety on an empty stomach. You may find your blood sugar gets low, which can make you feel even worse.

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You Could See A Cold Sore Pop Up In Response To Stress

Feeling the pressure? If you occasionally get cold sores, don’t be surprised if one pops up during periods of stress. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the herpes simplex virus stays dormant “inside the nerves, causing no symptoms most of the time.” But occasionally, something “wakes up” the virus, ultimately, causing those unsightly, painful mouth blisters. It could be a sunburn that does the waking. Or it might be hormonal changes or even you guessed it stress.

Frances Cohen, the lead researcher of a study that looked at the effects of stress on the herpes simplex virus, told WebMD that short-term or situational stress is not a big concern. “It is long-term stress that can cause outbreaks,” the expert explained. “Persistent stressors and highest level of anxiety genital herpes recurrence, whereas transient mood states, short-term stressors, and life-changing events did not,” Cohen clarified. Furthermore, physical exhaustion can lead to a run down immune system which can also cause a herpes outbreak .

Excretory And Digestive Systems

A Life without Anorexia: Stress and it

Anxiety also affects your excretory and digestive systems. You may have stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. Loss of appetite can also occur.

There may be a connection between anxiety disorders and the development of irritable bowel syndrome after a bowel infection. IBS can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

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Improving Your Ability To Handle Stress

Get moving. Upping your activity level is one tactic you can employ right now to help relieve stress and start to feel better. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully .

Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when youre feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and dont let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you dont have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.

Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your sensessight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.

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Your Period Might Become Irregular If You Are Perpetually Stressed

Even if you’ve been tracking your menstrual cycle religiously and planning your calendar with meticulous care, do not be shocked if your period still drops by at the most inconvenient possible time or neglects to come at all. If you have been under a lot of stress and dealing with anxiety, your cycle could be all messed up.

As explained by Everyday Health, stress affects the hypothalamus, which affects the pituitary gland. And the chain doesn’t end there the pituitary gland affects your adrenal glands and ovaries, which majorly controls your hormones. This could affect everything from ovulation to your estrogen level. And, of course, if your ovaries are not functioning at their peak capacity, your otherwise predictable period may pay the price. You may experience irregularity or even secondary amenorrhea, a temporary halt to menstruation. If your usually-punctual period becomes erratic, talk to your doctor. It could definitely be stress, but you’ll want to rule out other potential culprits, too.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Stress Overload

The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You dont notice how much its affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. Thats why its important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical symptoms:

  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits

You May Experience Acne Breakouts Due To Stress

How Does Stress Affect The Body When We Dont Manage It

Does stressing out lead to breaking out? Lisa A. Garner, a dermatology professor, told WebMD, “When you already have acne and you get into a stressful situation, that seems to be when your acne really flares up.” Yes, as if you needed another thing to worry about, you can add pimples to your list. Two separate studies, cited by the health site, found that college students, for example, experienced a surge in acne right around academic testing time.

While the relation is clear, researchers are still trying to understand why this happens. One theory, noted by Dr. Garner, is that the cells that make sebum “have receptors for stress hormones.” Sebum along with bacteria and dead skin cells can then “clog the hair follicles, leading to a pimple or acne cyst.” Furthermore, when you are stressed out, you might be more prone to the nervous habit of picking your skin. And more picking/touching equals more acne so hands off!

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Stress And Bathroom Habits

Stress can change the way your intestines absorb nutrients, and how quickly food moves through your body. In this way stress can lead to either constipation or diarrhea. It doesn’t help that stress provokes you to eat more greasy and sugary foods, often in the form of processed foods. These foods can make your gut leaky, causing additional problems like inflammation.

Chronic stress can change the bacteria in your digestive system as well. Bad bacteria begin to replace the good bacteria, which can be killed off. With different bacteria available, the foods you eat begin to digest differently. One study showed that women with irritable bowel syndrome experience worse digestive symptoms when stressed out, and that their stress is strongly associated with anxiety and depression.

The best ways to ward off these problems include exercising and maintaining a healthy diet (especially one containing fiber. However, until you get a handle on your stress, these problems are likely to continue.

How Stress Affect Our Physical And Psychological Wellbeing

When stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, the risks for mental health problems and medical problems increase. Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, substance use problems, sleep problems, pain and bodily complaints such as muscle tension.

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The Signs Of Insomnia May Also Be Signs Of Anxiety

If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, especially the night before a major event, it could be a sign of anxiety. If you have generalized anxiety disorder or another diagnosed medical condition related to anxiety, you may feel this way more often than not. It doesnt matter what events are going on in these casesyou still feel anxious. Signs of Insomnia go beyond simply not being able to sleep. They also include the following:

  • Waking up often during the night
  • Waking up early
  • Sleeping all night, but feeling unrested and irritable
  • Finding it hard to focus

Insomnia and anxiety often start a vicious cycle. You cant sleep because youre anxious. The lack of sleep then makes you feel even more anxious, making it even harder to sleep the next night. A lack of sleep then affects the body in even more ways, leaving you unrested and anxious with declining health.

Major Anxiety Disorders Include:

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  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder , is when you get anxious about most every day situations and are unable to remember the last time you were in a relaxed mental state. This state of anxiety is caused by an imbalance in the brain chemicals that are involved in the regulation of a persons moods, serotonin, and noradrenaline a combination of past trauma such as violence, abuse, or bullying chronic pain condition or hereditary factors, among others.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can cause a person to have obsessive, intrusive thoughts that can be distressing or an overwhelming desire or compulsion to perform a routine repeatedly. This could be reflected in his or her habits, be it cleaning or washing hands unnecessarily, arranging items in a drawer in a certain way, folding away clothes, etc.
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder , caused after a particularly stressful period such as being in a war zone, surviving an attack or a tragic accident, or incident due to a natural disaster, and so on.
  • Phobias, experienced due to an excessive and irrational fear of a creature, place or event, such as bees, spiders, heights, the dark, tight spaces, fire, and so on.
  • Panic Attacks, cause irrational and heightened anxiety periods accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, cold hands and feet, inability to breathe or hyperventilate, etc.

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Stress Is Not Anxiety Or Depression

Stress is not the same as anxiety or depression but for some people, being stressed for a long time can lead to anxiety or depression, and it can affect a persons physical health, particularly cardiovascular health.

When we talk about being stressed, it usually means were upset or tense about something thats happening in our lives. Stress is a normal part of daily life. Its a natural physical and mental response that is designed to help people cope effectively with emergencies.

Some stress can be a good thing. It can help us get motivated to get things done, but health problems from stress happen when it is regular and doesnt let up.

How To Stop The Physical Anxiety Symptoms

When you suffer from the physical symptoms of anxiety, your goal is often to stop them as quickly as possible. One of the issues that affects people during treatment is that they generally want to treat the symptom that bothers them the most, but not the anxiety itself.

For example, those with digestive stress because of anxiety often take Tums or other over-the-counter stomach aids. Those with headaches tend to take pain killers, and so on.

Often these treatments have no effect at all, and those that they do affect they will only relieve temporarily. Ideally, you need to make sure your anxiety is under control, and the physical symptoms will go away with it.

Start with the following:

From there, you really need to learn to deal with your specific anxiety issues, and for that, you need to learn what kind of anxiety you have as well as recognize how it’s affecting you.

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How Stress Affects Your Heart

When your stress is sudden and lasts for a limited time , your heart starts pumping faster right away. It’s part of the way your body adjusts to dangerous situations. That isn’t especially hard on your body. But what if your “stress” lever gets stuck and you wind up with ongoing chronic stress?

Chronic stress keeps your heart rate up for long expanses of time. It also causes your blood pressure to increase. These put you at greater risk of major heart disorders such as heart attack and stroke.

The health problems stress brings to your heart don’t end there. Repeated episodes of acute stress or ongoing chronic stress could increase the inflammation in your circulatory system, especially inside your coronary arteries. This could explain how intense stress can bring on heart attacks. In addition, stress may raise cholesterol levels in some people, which affects the circulation and heart as well.

What Might Indicate That Both Anxiety And Depression Are Present

How does STRESS Affect the Body?

Traits that may signal the presence of both anxiety disorder and depression include:

  • Irrational worries or fears that wont go away
  • Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, rapid heartbeat, labored breathing or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep
  • Changes in eating habits either too much or too little
  • Trouble remembering, making decisions or concentrating
  • Constant feelings of sadness or worthlessness
  • Loss of usual interest in activities or hobbies
  • Feeling often tired and cranky
  • Inability to relax and live in the moment
  • Suffering from panic attacks, including the sense of losing inner control2

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