Most people encounter stress every day; stress is a physical or emotional response to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, it can be beneficial in helping you avoid danger or in meeting a deadline. However, when stress lasts for long periods of time, it can be damaging. According to the American Institute of Stress, there are different types of stress including:
- Acute stress;
- Chronic stress;
When stress lasts for extended periods of time, your body may release hormones to stay alert. Over time, this heightened state can put you at risk for health problems. Stress can manifest in different ways, including emotional and physical symptoms. There are many common effects stress has on the mind and the body, which include:
- Muscle tension or pain;
- Chest pain;
- Upset stomach;
- Sleep problems.
Although there are a variety of tell-tale signs, the symptoms of stress can vary widely, especially if someone suffers from stress in conjunction with other mental or physical health issues.
1. Listening and Communication Problems
Stress can cause issues with communication for many reasons, including:
- A lack of clarity;
- Brain fog.
Under pressure, people are more likely to process fewer messages, meaning they may miss vital information in a conversation. Additionally, people under high stress might not recall things in linear order, but rather, what was last said or most important. There are many symptoms that can show you are too stressed to have a conversation, like:
- Muscle tightness;
- Rapid or shallow breathing;
- Anger or frustration;
- Flushed face;
- Stomach ache;
- Clenched fist;
- Difficulty concentrating.
It’s important to know when you are experiencing these symptoms so that you can conduct conversations productively with others.
2. Constant Thirst
Severe stress can cause the adrenal glands to create and distribute stress hormones into the body. In time, the adrenal glands can become fatigued which may lead to a fluctuation in fluid levels. There are many ways stress can make you feel thirsty, including:
- Dry mouth: Stress can cause dry mouth, which can seem like thirst. Water is taken away from the mouth and directed to other areas of the body that need it.
- Not drinking water: Anxiety and stress can make people feel full, which can cause them to drink less water.
- Excessive urination: Many people urinate more frequently during anxiety attacks, a natural reaction. They can also cause water loss.
- Mouth breathing: Anxiety and stress can cause people to breathe through their mouths more often to get more air. This can naturally dry out the tongue and gives the impression of thirst.
- Perceived dehydration or hypochondria: Anxiety can cause people to think they are not getting enough water and contribute to thirst.
Anxiety can cause these issues, resulting in excessive or constant thirst. While there is the risk of overhydration, it is rare and often only occurs under certain circumstances.
3. Dental Issues
People experiencing anxiety could be subject to grinding or clenching their teeth — a common symptom brought on by stress. Besides teeth grinding, stress can have other effects on oral health like:
- Canker sores;
- Gum disease;
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder;
- Oral hygiene neglect.
Some of these symptoms can lead to other, more major symptoms. For instance, grinding your teeth can lead to sleep disorders, headaches, jaw pain, and broken or chipped teeth. To counter these symptoms, consider wearing a mouthguard or practice relaxation tips from dentists.
4. Excessive Perspiration
Stress can cause your heart rate to increase and your muscles to tense. On the other hand, sweat can help cool and hydrate the body. Sweat glands are activated by nerves which can be sensitive to emotional and hormonal stressors. When your body temperature rises during stress, your sweat glands try to cool down the body.
Excessive sweating, or hyperhidrosis, is not typically related to heat or exercise. In fact, this excessive sweating can be caused by stress and cause stress, creating a vicious cycle. Additionally, other symptoms can be felt, like lightheadedness, chest pain, or nausea. Many people find relief through prescription-strength antiperspirants. In extreme cases, doctors will remove the sweat glands or disconnect the nerves responsible for the overproduction of sweat.
5. Excuses and Secrecy
Stress can worsen many medical and emotional conditions, including anxiety and depression. These conditions can result in low self-esteem which can affect how you deal with other day-to-day stressors. Stress, depression, and anxiety can make you tired, lose self-confidence, and feel unworthy of other people’s company. In turn, people who are experiencing this type of stress can become secretive or make excuses to cancel plans.
People who suffer from anxiety or depression are experts at hiding their symptoms. This could be for a number of reasons, including that they are embarrassed, they don’t understand their mental health issues, or they don’t feel comfortable telling people about them. Often, the person experiencing prolonged stress wants to emulate the idea of perfection, especially to friends, families, and coworkers.
6. Gastrointestinal Issues
Stress causes digestive issues by shutting down the blood flow, contractions, and secretions needed for digestion. When stress is activated in your body, it can affect the digestive system by:
- Causing the esophagus to spasm;
- Increasing stomach acid, resulting in indigestion;
- Making you feel nauseous;
- Decreasing blood flow and oxygen to the stomach;
- Imbalanced gut bacteria;
- Giving you diarrhea or constipation.
It can also exacerbate gastrointestinal disorders including:
- Irritable bowel syndrome;
- Inflammatory bowel disease;
- Peptic ulcers;
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease.
It’s important to keep your guy healthy, as it can contribute to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved moods, and better sleep.
7. Poor Motor Skills
Stress can affect how the cerebellum processes information — the area of the brain responsible for motor control and movement. Other symptoms can include:
- Distracted thinking: People dealing with stress often find that their minds can wander, causing them to lose focus on the immediate physical environment. This can lead to bumping into things, tripping, or dropping items.
- Shaky hands: Shaking can happen under extreme stress or anxiety, which can make it hard for people to hold items. Additionally, it can lower people’s confidence in performing actions or holding things.
- Sweaty hands: Sweat can make items feel different in your hand which may cause you to lose your grip.
- Hesitation: Stress and anxiety can cause you to hesitate on making decisions, which can cause them to react too late or make more mistakes.
- Overthinking: Similar to hesitation, overthinking can distract you from the present and cause slower reactions.
While it’s important to note that people are clumsy to a certain degree, people with severe stress or anxiety can be more aware of it. This could lead to feelings of embarrassment or shame, and should be talked about with a therapist if it affects your daily life. An occupational therapy assistant can help train patients to use assistive devices, work on a patient’s motor skills, and teach a patient how to regain strength after an accident.
8. Risky Behavior
Studies have shown that there is a connection between high stress and increased risk-taking. Chronic stress is correlated with risk-taking, especially in financial settings. Additionally, when presented with cost-benefit conflicts, a person’s decision-making is dramatically affected by chronic stress. People with underlying mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, and addiction, are more at risk of poor decision-making because of their condition. People can experience this type of stress in the following ways:
- Deciding between jobs;
- Making financial decisions;
- Getting married;
- Navigating chronic illness or injury;
- Moving to a new home;
- Dealing with the death of a loved one.
9. Speech Issues
Speech problems can be exacerbated by stress, not necessarily caused by it. Anxiety, on the other hand, is caused by prolonged stress and can have an effect on your voice and speech patterns. Anxious behavior can activate the stress response, and can cause changes in the body that prepare the person for immediate response to a situation. The condition can overwhelm senses and thoughts, which can result in mental and physical symptoms that make it difficult to form words or have a conversation. These symptoms include:
- Shaky voice;
- Quiet voice;
- Dry throat or loss of voice;
- Trouble putting thoughts into words;
- Difficulty moving the lips, tongue, or mouth;
- Slow speech;
- Slurred speech.
While changes in speech patterns can be embarrassing, they are also curable if you address your anxiety issues with a therapist. Therapists who study occupational therapy can help people with speech problems.
A tremor is an involuntary muscle contraction that can lead to shaking movements in one or several parts of the body. Most of the time it affects the hands, but in some cases, tremors can also occur in the arms, head, vocal cords, torso, and legs.
People experiencing anxiety and panic disorders are more likely to experience tremors because their body is subjected to prolonged amounts of stress. As your body experiences anxiety, your body can interpret it as a fight-or-flight situation. The muscles in your body tense up, getting ready to act, which can lead to tremors.
There are many types of tremors, including:
- Intention tremors;
- Postural tremors;
- Task-specific tremors;
- Kinetic tremors;
- Isometric tremors.
It’s important to understand which type of tremor you are experiencing, as it can lead to other serious illnesses, like Parkinson’s. Occupational therapists have many skills, including finding creative solutions to a patient’s problems, including tremors.
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