Stress Management Effects on Health 10 Signs You May Be Overstressed By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP Published on July 27, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD Medically reviewed by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD LinkedIn Twitter Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor at Yeshiva University’s clinical psychology doctoral program. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print PeopleImages / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Poor Sleep Depression Anxiety and Irritability Frequent Headaches Digestive Issues High Blood Pressure Acne Getting Sick Often Aches and Pains Low Libido Stress is the body’s normal response to change. It can be physical, emotional, or mental. Whether it’s meeting an upcoming deadline or organizing a birthday party, stress is part of everyday life. However, everyone reacts to stress differently. Feeling stressed may be obvious for some but others may not notice until it becomes more severe. A 2015 observation study looked at what extent adults perceive stress and it found that 59% have experienced a high level of stress. But overstress or too much stress can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being as it can cause your body to deteriorate. How can you know if you’re experiencing a normal level of stress or if you’re actually overstressed? Although stress affects everyone differently, there are some common signs you might be overstressed. What Is Chronic Stress? Your Sleep Patterns Are Off Most of us have experienced a sleepless night and woke up feeling tired and groggy. When someone is overstressed, their mind is overwhelmed and it affects their ability to fall asleep and remain asleep. If you’re feeling tired all the time and barely have any energy to get through the day, you may be overstressed. A 2014 study with over 2,300 adult participants showed a significant association between stress exposure and an increased risk of insomnia. You Feel Depressed It is understandable that major life events such as the death of a loved one and job loss can cause feelings of sadness and depression. But stress due to daily life problems such as financial difficulties, troubled relationships, health problems and parenting responsibilities can also cause depression. A study that looked at 816 women showed that both chronic and acute stress significantly increased the risk of a major depressive episode. It is important to note that depression is related to other factors such as family history, environment, brain chemistry, certain medical conditions, and poor nutrition. You Feel Anxious or Irritable—Or Both! When you've been experiencing a high level of stress over an extended period of time, you may feel overwhelmed. You may have too many things to and you might feel like you're unable to get it all done. This can create feelings of irritability. Whether it’s preparing for an interview or going on a first date, it’s normal to feel anxious every so often; however, if you’re feeling anxious all the time, it could mean you’re overstressed. A 2015 study that looked at medically-healthy employed adults between the ages of 30 and 60, showed that work and home stress were associated with anxiety and depression symptoms in both men and women. You're Getting Frequent Headaches Whether it’s from a bad night’s sleep or a hangover, you’ve probably experienced a headache before. However, one of the common symptoms of overstress is getting frequent tension-type headaches This type of headache can feel like there is a band wrapped around your head that's slowly tightening. A longitudinal population-based study published in 2014 revealed that increasing stress was associated with an increasing number of days a participant experienced a headache each month, specifically for those with tension-type headaches and younger populations. You Have Digestive Issues Chronic stress can cause digestive issues such as heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea and exacerbate symptoms of those who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and other functional gastrointestinal diseases. Racing Heartbeat and High Blood Pressure You can feel your heart beating faster when you’re out for a brisk walk or moving some heavy furniture. However, if your heart is racing when you’re standing still or sitting, it could mean you’re overstressed. When you are experiencing stress, both your heart rate and blood pressure go up. However, if the stressor is short-term (aka situational stress), your heart rate and blood pressure will return to normal levels. If you are stressed for a long period of time, your body will, consequently, be in overdrive for an extended period of time. You Notice More Acne Picture this: it’s the night before a big presentation and as you’re brushing your teeth, you notice a massive pimple has popped up right on your forehead. The severity of stress has been shown to be significantly associated with an increase in acne severity. One of the mechanisms is that during the stress response, the body releases cortisol which increases the skin’s production of oil and worsens acne. Keep in mind that there are other factors that can contribute to acne aside from stress such as inflammation, clogged pores, bacteria, and hormonal changes. You're Getting Sick Often The effectiveness of your immune system depends on the level of stress your body is experiencing. When your body is constantly under stress, your immune system becomes vulnerable and its ability to fight off infections and viruses decreases. So, if it seems like you’re always recovering from a cold or facing significant health problems, you may be overstressed. You Feel Achey Chronic pain and chronic stress go hand in hand. If someone is in pain, they feel stressed and if they’re constantly stressed, it can cause aches and pains. How does your body feel when you get up in the morning? If you constantly feel pain in your joints and your back, you may be overstressed. One of the reasons prolonged stress can cause aches and pain involves cortisol which is released during the body’s stress response. In normal situations, cortisol is an anti-inflammatory hormone; however, chronic stress and repeated surges of cortisol cause cortisol dysfunction. Cortisol dysfunction causes inflammation which, in turn, creates widespread tissue and nerve damage. Your Sex Drive Is Down Stress can cause changes in libido. If you’re finding that you're less interested in sex than you used to be, you could be experiencing overstress. A 2021 study looked at the association between the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s reproductive health. It surveyed over 1000 women and found that 45% said that they experienced a decreased sex drive due to stress. It is important to consider other factors that affect one’s libido including hormonal changes, psychological factors, smoking, alcohol consumption, and other social factors. 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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(16):5995–5999. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118355109 Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014;94(12):1816–1825. Phelan N, Behan LA, Owens L. The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on women’s reproductive health. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021;12:642755. Nazarpour S, Simbar M, Tehrani FR. Factors affecting sexual function in menopause: A review article.Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2016;55(4):480–487. By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP Katharine is the author of three books (How To Deal With Asian Parents, A Brutally Honest Dating Guide and A Straight Up Guide to a Happy and Healthy Marriage) and the creator of 60 Feelings To Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions. She has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system. 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