Common Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress

Man wincing with a headache

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We all experience stress in our daily lives from different sources: jobs, relationships, finances. And whether you’re dealing with a daily stressor, chronic stress, or a major life challenge like illness or divorce, stress can take a significant toll on you both physically and emotionally. How do you know when you’re dealing with a level of stress that’s unhealthy for you?​

The answer to this question can be tricky for a few reasons:

  • Wide variety of effects: Stress affects the body in many different ways. Some of these are obvious, but others may not be as noticeable or easy to detect until they become more severe.
  • Personal differences: Different people are affected more or less intensely and in different ways.
  • Ambiguity of symptoms: The effects of stress often look like symptoms of other illnesses (partially due to the fact that stress lowers immunity and makes us vulnerable to many things), sometimes people mistake symptoms of illness for stress and vice versa.​
  • Habituation: People who thrive on stress tend to feel it as their natural state, making it more difficult to discern stress symptoms until after much of their stress is alleviated.
  • Feeling too overwhelmed to notice stress: Ironically, when under high levels of stress, people often find it difficult to stop and notice their body’s responses. It seems counterintuitive that someone could be "too stressed to feel stressed," but it does happen.

Common Signs That You're Highly Stressed

While stress affects everyone in a unique way, there are certain factors that are common. If you are experiencing any of the following, it could be a sign that you’re being affected by stress:


Certain types of headaches can be related to stress. Tension headaches tend to feel like you have a band wrapped around the sides of your head and that band is slowly tightening. If you’re experiencing more headaches, especially tension headaches, stress could be the culprit.

More Frequent Colds or Flu

There’s an inverse relationship between stress and immunity, meaning the greater your stress levels, the lower the effectiveness of your immune system, generally speaking. This is true for stress that is greater in severity or stress that is more chronic.

Decreased immunity means you're more susceptible to everything from colds to more significant health issues, so if you’re under too much stress, you may be getting sick more often.

Sleep Problems

There are many ways that stress affects sleep. Stress can make sleep come less easily and can lead to wakefulness throughout the night. Too much stress can rob you of sleep and make the sleep you get less restorative.

General Anxiety

Anxiety does serve an important function for survival, but if you’re feeling anxious much of the time, it could be because you have too many stressors in your life, or it may indicate a mental health condition like generalized anxiety disorder. If you experience an increase in anxiety, you may want to talk to your doctor.

Fuzzy Thinking

Your body’s stress response pumps your body with hormones that make it possible for you to fight or flee quickly. It was built for infrequent stress, however, and stress that is short in duration. When triggered in excess, this stress response can actually cause you to think less quickly.

Feelings of Frustration

If you’re faced with many demands at once, the natural result for many people is increased frustration and irritability. This can lead to more difficulty in relationships as well as in personal happiness. The trick is to find ways to prevent frustration and calm down quickly.

Lowered Libido

Stress can affect your libido in several ways. If you’re too tired for sex, or can’t seem to find the time for your partner, this can be due to stress in your life as well. This lack of sex drive can also create more stress in your romantic relationships, leading to yet another example of poorly managed stress leading to greater levels of stress to manage.

These are just a few of the many ways that stress can affect your body and mind.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease riskProc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(16):5995–5999. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118355109

  3. Choi DW, Chun SY, Lee SA, Han KT, Park EC. Association between sleep duration and perceived stress: salaried worker in circumstances of high workloadInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(4):796. doi:10.3390/ijerph15040796

  4. NIHM. Generalized anxiety disorder: When worry gets out of control.

  5. Yu R. Stress potentiates decision biases: A stress induced deliberation-to-intuition (SIDI) modelNeurobiol Stress. 2016;3:83–95. doi:10.1016/j.ynstr.2015.12.006

  6. NHS. Loss of libido.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.