Stress symptoms, warning signs, causes, and management

All about physical and mental stress symptoms, stress management, and everything else that you need to know.

Updated on Sep 29, 2022 06:01 PM IST  |  53.9K
Stress symptoms, warning signs, causes, and management
Stress symptoms, warning signs, causes, and management

Stress is subjective, in fact, most of us can identify stress symptoms when we experience it. This overwhelming mental state can make basic tasks like making decisions, going to work, or even breathing, feel like a big chore. Despite being such a common issue, stress is different for everybody. From causes to symptoms to what to do about it, people experience and deal with their stress differently. However, it is important to remember, that over-stressing for an extended period of time can have a severely negative impact on the body. Whether it is physical, emotional, or even psychological, stress comes with its set of repercussions. From a habit of grinding teeth to a significantly weakened immune system, symptoms of stress vary from person to person. However, if not paid attention to the consequences of stress are pretty alarming.

To help you manage your stress or to help a loved one, it is very important to understand the telltale signs of stress. Once you recognize what stress looks like you can definitely manage your stress better or help a loved one get through it. With this article let us learn to identify overwhelming stress and how to handle it. 

Stress Symptoms: What is stress?

The World Health Organization defines stress as, “Any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain.” WHO explains, “Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being.” 

Clearly, stress can be characterized as an overwhelming feeling of being unable to cope with any mental or emotional pressure. It can also be described as the body’s way of reacting to a situation or perhaps a threat. When an individual senses danger, regardless of whether it is real or imaginary, the body responds by kicking its defense mechanism which is usually a “fight-or-flight” reaction also known as the stress response. Actually, this stress response is your body’s natural tendency to protect you. When healthy it helps boost focus, alertness, and energy. 

A certain level of stress can keep you on your toes and help you grow in order to meet any number of challenges. That awareness you have when you’re watching a movie when you have a test or a presentation the next day, that’s healthy stress. That is because deep down you know you should be preparing for it. But any stress beyond this point can stop being helpful and starts triggering nervousness and affecting your overall health, mood, and productivity. If you find yourself struggling with stress and it's hard for you to calm your nervous system, you need to learn to recognize the symptoms of severe stress in order to combat it and protect yourself from its harmful effects. 

What are the common causes of stress?

Any situation or instance that leads to stress is known as a stressor. While typically, stressors include a negative situation like a heavy workload or an unhealthy relationship. However, for some people, overwhelming positive events like getting married, going to college, or buying a house can also serve as stressors. Therefore stressors can be negative as well as positive. 

Apart from this stressors can be external as well as internal. That means stress can be induced by both external as well as internal causes. Yes, stress can be self-generated. Again, stress is very subjective. In fact, it's all about perception, mental strength, and tolerance at a specific point. Something that’s very easy to handle for one person can be extremely stressful to another. This might include, public speaking, working under tight deadlines, or a breakup. Here are a few common causes of stress: 

Common external causes of stress:

Common internal causes of stress:

What are the common stress symptoms?

If you stop to think about it, the most terrifying aspect of stress is how easily grows on you. It begins to feel natural, even familiar. If not dealt with on time, it can have a significant impact on you, whether physical or mental. That is why it is essential to understand and diagnose common warning signs and symptoms of excessive stress. 

Any stressful situation triggers the body’s autonomic nervous system. This system controls a wide range of body functions which lead to symptoms like increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and blurred vision in severe stress. Usually, the built-in stress response is also known as the “fight-or-flight response,” enables the body to better handle the stressful situation. 

In fact, the human nervous system is not perfect at differentiating between emotional or physical threats. Whether it's stressing over a dispute with a friend, a work-related deadline, or a huge pile of bills, your body tends to react as strongly as it would have if it were a real life-or-death crisis. Naturally, once your emergency stress system is triggered, it is not to panic. Prolonged stress or chronic stress can lead to a weakened immune system, disrupt your digestion and increase the risk of reproductive, heart, or mental health-related issues. Not just that, chronic stress when not treated can lead to early signs of aging and reduce the overall quality of life. If you believe you have been a little too stressed lately and you cannot determine whether or not it is something to worry about, you must comprehend the warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The symptoms of chronic stress or stress over an extended period of time are different for everyone. This may include physical, behavioral as well as emotional symptoms. 

Physical stress symptoms 

In overly stressful situations stress may project itself in the form of physical symptoms and signs. While symptoms of stress vary from person to person, here are a few common physical symptoms of stress: 

Emotional stress symptoms

Stress comes with a different set of emotional, mental, or psychological stress symptoms for everybody. Here are a few common emotional or mental symptoms signs and symptoms of stress:

Irritability/agitation, anxiety, or constant worrying

Unhealthy behavioral changes due to stress and stress symptoms

In severe situations, people chose to handle their stress by making unhealthy life choices. Therefore stress can also be characterized by these unhealthy changes in behavior like: 

Stress tolerance level - How much stress is too much stress?

While a little stress is a normal part of life, a lot of it can cause all kinds of damage. In fact, it can even lead to chronic stress symptoms. In order to avoid these stress-induced damages and signs of burnout, it is very important to understand, how much stress is too much stress. However, it is important to understand that “too much” can differ from person to person. While some people thrive in a high-stress lifestyle, others may succumb. To understand your limit to stress, it is important to understand the factors that affect your stress tolerance. There are several factors that influence the stress tolerance level, some of them are:

How can be stress diagnosed?

Stress is subjective which means it cannot be possible to measure it with a health of a test or a machine. While symptoms and severity of stress can be understood by the first-hand information given by the person experiencing it. While signs of stress may include behavioral and physical changes that are visible to another person which can be understood by talking to a close family member of the stressed individual. Typically, healthcare providers use questionnaires that help them understand the level of stress and its impact on daily life. The physical symptoms of chronic stress can be indicated by severe symptoms like increased heart rate or high blood pressure. While these physical symptoms can be treated via medication it is wise to treat the cause of those symptoms - stress. 

Stress Management: What are the treatment options for chronic stress? 

It would have been perfect if we had a little pill of happiness that would help us beat all our stress and stress symptoms. However, it's just not possible that’s because stress is very subjective. Every person has a different tolerance level and prefers different ways of dealing with their stress. Naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the treatment of stress. However, it is advised to talk to a trusted friend or to indulge in a few seconds of self-care. But, if the stress is chronic and a day of rest is just not working, you might consider going to a licensed therapist. While you must think twice before taking medications, when it comes to therapy, there are no small reasons. 

Apart from that, here are a few lifestyle changes that you must consider making in order to lead a stress-free life as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Stress and stress symptoms are a part of life and everyone has a different threshold or tolerance level. While some people thrive under stressful situations, others tremble while speaking in a crowd. This however affects the tendency to be more or less agitated or affected during stress. What you might brush off as stress for someone else because of your higher threshold can be an actual illness for a person. That is why it is very important to turn to self-help activities that help in establishing a connection with ourselves. It can be something as small as a daily workout meditation or a weekly yoga class. However, if you feel uneasy or unsettled for over a week it is wise to reach out to a licensed therapist to help navigate your way out of it. Remember it is okay to ask for help. 

ALSO READ: Are you feeling stressed out? Here are a few tips that will help


How do I know I am stressed?
Symptoms of stress can be physical as well as mental symptoms like increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and blurred vision are physical symptoms while mental symptoms include irritability, forgetfulness, anxiety, or unable to do basic tasks.

What are the symptoms of stress and anxiety
Unlike symptoms signs of stress are visible and can be noticed by someone else. Common signs of stress include physical symptoms like heavy breathing and mental symptoms like inability to perform basic tasks or a panic attack.

What is chronic stress?
Any stress beyond general stress stops being helpful and starts triggering nervousness and affecting your overall health, mood, and productivity is chronic stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
Common signs of stress are, aches, difficulty breathing, fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure, stomach problems, sexual or reproductive problems, weakened immune system, panic attacks, irritability, and anxiety.

What causes stress and stress symptoms?
Stress can be caused due to positive or negative stressors which includes heavy workload or unhealthy relationship or getting married. These are just external causes, stress can also be caused due to internal causes like negative self talk.

When to seek therapy?
If the stress is chronic and a day of rest and lifestyle changes are just not working, you might consider going to a licensed therapist. Remember, when it comes to therapy no reason is small.

How to manage stress?
If the stress is chronic and a day of rest and lifestyle changes are just not working, you might consider going to a licensed therapist.

What are extreme stress symptoms?
Major warning signs of stress include the inability to perform basic chores, lack of appetite, sleep disturbances which may include too much or too little sleep, and change in behavior like the use of substances or gambling.

Can I get migraine from stress symptoms?
Yes, a headache is a major sign of stress. While it is subjective for everyone, however, tightness or pressure across the forehead on the sides or back is a stress symptom. It might vary from mild to extreme.


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