Stress: Signs, Effects on Body and Complications

Medically reviewed by

Mental Wellness

7 min read

Key Takeaways

  • It is important to understand the effects of stress on your body and mind
  • here are different stress symptoms to be aware of
  • Understanding the consequences of stress is definitely something worth delving into

Maintaining your wellbeing holistically is of key importance, which includes physical, mental and emotional health. Managing stress is an important a part of this process. In everyday life, there are many sources of stress, be it related to work or finances, familial matters, or even with regard to your social circle. This is why it is important to understand the effects of stress on your body and mind. However, you can turn stressful situations to your advantage with proper self-care. In other words, you can counteract the psychological effects of stress but doing so demands that you pinpoint the types of stress you may be experiencing.

What is Stress?

There can be situations where we cannot cope with certain mental and physical pressures. That feeling of excessive pressure and helplessness in that situation is called stress. You can identify stress when you start sleeping less, eating less, overeating, or consuming too much alcohol. These are ways one can temporarily cope with stress but can actually quite adversely affect you instead. Feeling stressed makes us exhausted, and it badly affects our mood. 

Stress Symptoms

To help with that, here are 8 different stress symptoms to be aware of.

Memory problems

Acute stress has been found to have a considerable impact on the way the brain records and stores memories. When under stress, it can be a lot harder to create short-term memories and, in turn, your long-term memory is also affected. Naturally, learning or studying when stressed isn’t ideal. Stress is also known to affect memory recall, as it can shape perception. This is the main reason why eye-witness testimonials are unreliable as the stress of witnessing an event can alter the way the memories are formed and make them different from reality.

Lastly, stress also brings on exhaustion, which can cause cognitive impairment and lead to issues with your working memory. Here, memory impairment can persist several years after the exhaustion has been addressed.

Difficulty in concentrating

While difficulty in concentrating is common for some, understanding the cause can help minimise it. Overall tiredness and emotional stress are known contributors, with the latter having more of a role to play. When you experience stress over a long period of time, a stress hormone known as cortisol is released constantly. This can lead to cell damage in the brain, which causes concentration problems.

Chronic pain

Numerous studies have spoken of chronic pain as a symptom arising due to increased stress. Here, the increased levels of the hormone cortisol could be associated with chronic pain. For instance, on one study, those with chronic pain demonstrated a higher level of cortisol in their hair, a known indicator of prolonged stress.

Similarly, a study compared those with chronic back pain to a control group and found those with the chronic pain to have higher cortisol levels. These studies associate stress with chronic pain, but do not confirm it as a sole cause. Other factors like injury, ageing or nerve damage could also be possibilities. However, this research points to the lasting effects of stress on your physical wellbeing.


To understand this symptom of stress, it is important to note that anxiety is defined as a feeling of fear, unease or worry. This can be observed as a reaction to stress and can further develop into feeling overwhelmed or nervous. Studies have linked stress to anxiety and its related disorders. In fact, on studying the effects of stress on anxiety levels, researchers found that those who had high levels of work stress were likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.

Additional Read: Coping with anxiety during the pandemic

Poor judgement or the inability to make decisions

Research shows that the part of the brain that controls decision-making is affected by stress. Moreover, stress was found to cause confusion between good and bad choices. In fact, chronic stress can lead you to take more risky decisions, not necessarily smart ones. This is because part of the brain becomes impaired when under stress. This is most prominent when faced with a ‘cost-benefit conflict’ as chronic stress greatly affects the ability to judge pros and cons and take a measured decision.

Other research has found that when stressed, men are inclined toward fight-or-flight responses whereas women lean toward bonding and improving relationships. So, in one way or the other, stress can impair clear judgement.


Stress, be it short- or long-term, can cause major depression. Sustained stress leads to increased activity of your body’s stress-response mechanism. As a result, there is a higher level of cortisol and a reduced level of serotonin and dopamine, both neurotransmitters linked to depression. These affected levels impact other bodily processes like sleep, energy, appetite and regulate normal expression of emotion. So, when dealing with chronic stress, you are prone to experiencing the symptoms of depression.

Additional Read: Depression: Symptoms, Causes

Compulsive behaviours

Studies also link stress to the development of compulsive or addictive behaviours. Research conducted on chronic stress found that it could change the physical nature of the brain to result in addiction-forming behaviours. Moreover, stress can also magnify problems such as drug use, leading to the onset of addiction.

When stressed, common bodily responses include a surge in adrenaline and norepinephrine. These increase energy and excitement. Stress also reduces the appetite and keeps you awake longer. These reactions can also be brought on by stimulant drugs and this can be a reason for addiction brought on by stress.

Frequent colds or sicknesses

Studies have found that stress can be a contributing factor to frequent sicknesses like the common cold or the flu. This is because increased stress levels can negatively affect your immune system, leaving you susceptible to illness. In fact, as per one study, those with high stress levels were found to experience a higher percentage of respiratory infections, 70% more, with 61% more days of infection as compared to low-stress individuals.

Physical Symptoms of Stress on Body


Acne is when the skin is affected by bacteria. While stressed, one tends to touch the face a lot more. These results contribute to the development of acne. Also, when there are stress issues, we tend to focus less on drinking water, which contributes to the affected skin.


It has been found that when the stress level and its intensity rise, headaches usually accompany them.

Frequent sickness

When you are stressed, you tend to focus a lot less on being healthy. This results in frequent sickness.

Digestive Issues and Appetite Changes

When stressed, your eating habits change. Either you overeat or undereat. This affects your digestion, which may result in digestive issues.

Stress Treatment Options

There are various treatment options to handle stress. While a lot of them include pills, it is important to know that pills must only be consumed under the guidance of a doctor. One can take up therapy as a good solution to learning how to deal with stress. Sometimes, taking a breath and just slowing down can solve various issues. Meditation is helpful for a lot of people in terms of dealing with stress.

Here are some measures to help you cope with stress:

  • Know when to stop watching the news
  • Avoid getting too involved in social media. Set aside gadgets for a while
  • Prioritise exercise and sleep. Taking breaks to allow your body to rest is important
  • Increase the intake of nutrient-rich foods in your diet
  • Perform regular breathing exercises and meditation 
  • Try talking to friends, a trusted advisor, or a therapist

Complications of Long-term Stress

While it is common to experience short episodes of stress, it is also important to know how to deal with it and how to keep stress at bay. 

Chronic stress can take a huge toll on how you function physically and mentally. 

If not identified and treated soon, stress can affect various areas of your life, such as: 

  • Reduction in Libido
  • Reduction in motivation to do anything. Lack of energy and involvement with loved ones
  • It may affect relationships
  • It can cause pangs of anger that might come out on the wrong person affecting bonds 
  • Deterioration of health due to poor stress management
  • Tendency of an addiction to form, such as alcoholism or smoking
  • Prolonged bad mood

Do understand that stress can adversely affect your life and relationships if not dealt with well. It takes over you without even you knowing about it. So always, take a minute and breathe. 

Understanding the consequences of stress is definitely something worth delving into as stressful situations occur every now and then. Moreover, prolonged stress is known to have debilitating effects on health and demands special care. This goes beyond any personal remedies you may employ, as certain medication can also help relieve stress. In such cases, consulting a specialist trained to deal with such symptoms is the best way forward.

Find the best doctor for the job on Bajaj Finserv Health. Locate a therapist near you in minutes, view doctors’ years of experience, consulting hours, fees and more before booking online consultation or in-person appointment. Apart from facilitating appointment booking, the Bajaj Finserv Health also offers health plans for your family, medicine reminders, healthcare information and discounts from select hospitals and clinics.

Published on 2 Nov 2020Last updated on 27 Dec 2022
  11.‘Stress response fails’

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.


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