Stress is an unavoidable fact of life for most people and everyone will go through some stressful experiences in their life. It’s when stress becomes constant, though, that it can really start to take its toll on your health. Some people are natural born worriers and are more susceptible to stress than others. For these people, the damaging effects that stress has on their bodies, over a prolonged period of time, can be very severe. Most people know that stress can cause high blood pressure and put a strain on the heart, but the effects of stress and anxiety are far more wide ranging than that. Here are ten of those side effects of stress that you may not have known about.
1. Stress can prematurely age children
Sadly, even children can experience stress and it can be brought about through bullying at school, the pressure of examinations and violence in the home. According to the journal Molecular Psychiatry, children who experience stress at an early age can experience premature ageing of their cells. In a study of 236 children in England, it was discovered that those who had witnessed violence or, experienced bullying, all showed the signs of premature ageing.
2. Stress can bring on depression
Another one of side effects of stress is that stress can bring on depression. Numerous studies have proven that prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety can eventually lead to depression. The two things are often linked, because stress can destroy neurons in the brain and stop new brain cells forming.
3. It can cause hair loss
Next one of undesirable side effects of stress is that it can cause hair loss. Everyone loses some hair, every day, but when people are under extreme emotional stress, hair loss can speed up to the extent that a person could lose up to three quarters of their hair in a relatively short period of time. Stress induced hair loss, which is known as telogen effluvium, does not necessarily happen immediately, it can be months after a stressful event that the hair loss becomes apparent. Thankfully, this type of hair loss is not usually permanent and hair will probably grow back again in about six months.
4. Stress can cause you to put on weight
When you are under stress, your body releases cortisol, which slows down your metabolism and can cause weight gain. In one long term study published by the Obesity journal, 5,000 people were monitored over a five year period, and it was found that during periods of stress, people gained weight both because their metabolism was lowered and because they started to eat for comfort.
5. It can suppress your immune system
Another one of side effects of stress is that it can suppress your immune system. Studies have shown that stress can play havoc with the immune system and leave you far more prone to many types of illnesses. Your body becomes less able to fight off diseases, all the way from the common cold, up to chronic illnesses.
6. Stress can shake the brain
Side effects of stress can be very terrifying. Rather alarmingly, stress can actually shrink your brain too. Studies into the effects of stress have found that people who live with high levels of stress have a smaller prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for controlling emotions and people under stress can experience difficulties in controlling all their emotions. The reduction in the size of the brain is very gradual though, so most people don’t even recognise that something is changing within them.
7. It decreases the drive in bedroom department
While a reduction in passion and drive in the bedroom may not seem a big deal, compared with many of the side effects of stress, for some people, it adds to their emotional problems and can put a strain on their relationship. Stress and anxiety can lead to a total lack of interest in the bedroom department, as well as causing emotional detachment from their partner.
8. It can cause skin ailments
Here is another one of frightening side effects of stress: when you are stressed your body releases a hormone called glucocorticoid, which can aggravate existing skin conditions and bring on some more serious ones. This is not limited to simple conditions, such as acne; stress can also aggravate the symptoms of skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
9. Stress can make you forgetful
Many of the side effects of stress, worry and anxiety just lead to more stress. One of things that can happen is that people under stress tend to become more forgetful. Long term stress can impact on the brain’s ability to retain information and stress sufferers may experience quite severe bouts of forgetfulness, both in term of their short and long term memory.
10. Stress has a major impact on the heart
Worrying and stress has a huge detrimental impact on the health of the heart and stress leads to almost a 30% increase in the risk of heart attack. Stress also has an impact on a patient’s likelihood of surviving a heart attack. In a study conducted by St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, it was found that stress related heart attack victims had about 40% higher risk of dying within two years of suffering their first heart attack.