Health And Wellness

4 Extremely Damaging Physical Symptoms Of Emotional Stress

Photo: Karolina Grabowska | Canva
Woman stressed and sick, laying on floor while her to-do list dances in her head

By Florie Mwanza

For many of us, stress is just a byproduct of our everyday lives that we've learned to cope with, but it's important to deal with and resolve the causes of stress because when left unchecked, stress can trigger mood disorders that can affect our mental health.

According to Tim Hipgrave, Nuffield Health's emotional health lead, emotional stress can manifest itself in telltale ways, many of them physical. Read on to learn four physical signs that your mental and emotional health may be buckling under the strain.

Here are 4 extremely damaging physical symptoms of emotional stress:

1. Lack of energy

Stress doesn't just affect your mind, it also affects you physiologically by releasing the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, which mimics physical exertion by accelerating your breathing and heart rate and leaves you feeling unduly tired and lethargic. Stress can also be to blame for lack of sleep as it disrupts your body's ability to regulate its sleep-wake instincts, causing insomnia. Sleep is extremely important for your body, and if you go too long without it there can be serious repercussions. 

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2. Tooth grinding

Teeth grinding can cause major problems with your oral health including jaw ache, permanent tooth damage, and headaches. Stress-induced tooth grinding is linked to heightened activity in your subconscious when you're asleep; as you're not alert, your body uses your mouth as the physical outlet for the increased stress. If you're even stressed out in your sleep, then you know there's a problem.

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3. Getting sick easily

When stress triggers the release of cortisol into the bloodstream, it inadvertently hinders your immune system's regular function. One important way it does this is by suppressing the release of the hormone DHEA, which supports immune function. Stressed and sick? I can't imagine a worse combination. 

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4. Changed eating habits

It's no shocker that when we're stressed, we tend to reach for short-term food fixes for our problems, but stress can affect our eating habits by making us grab the nearest chocolate bar. "Stress eating" is often triggered by the release of cortisol, which increases your appetite and coinciding with your low morale, leads you to reach for typical comfort foods. These can be great for you every now and then, but when you find yourself needing them more and more, it's time to see what's really going on in your life.

On the other hand, many who suffer from stress also experience a loss of appetite, which is believed to be linked to the presence of a corticotropin-releasing hormone that suppresses appetite.

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Florie Mwanza is a freelance writer and former associate editor at PopSugar. She has been featured in  Yahoo Life, Cosmopolitan (UK), Refinery29, and more.

This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.