Mental Health

What is Chronic stress and how does it affect the body?

Chronic stress

What is Chronic stress?

Chronic stress is an adverse health effect experience over a prolonged period of time. Which can contribute to long-term problems for the heart and blood vessels. The ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and or blood pressure, can take a toll on the body.

Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can directly affect your health if it goes untreated. This stress can be caused by the everyday pressures of family and works.

Chronic stress occurs when the body experiences various stresses with such frequency or intensity that the automatic nervous system does not have an adequate chance to activate the relaxation response on a regular basis. This means that the body remains in a constant state of physiological arousal.

Chronic stress affects virtually every system in the body, either directly or indirectly. Acute stress, which is short-lived, but not chronic stress, which is steady over a long period of time.

What are the symptoms of chronic stress?

Physical symptoms of chronic stress include:-

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, nausea, etc
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and increase heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent cold and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire etc.

What can cause chronic stress?

Chronic stress can come in so many different ways, such as financial distress, employment, health conditions, experiencing chronic pain. Trauma, food insecurity, uncertain political climates, and poverty can lead to chronic stress as well.

Types of chronic stress

Chronic stress can be categorized into four different types:-

  • emotional stress (difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration)
  • environmental stress (where you live and work)
  • relationship stress (how you relate to friends, family, co-workers, partners)
  • work stress (challenges and pressures related to your job)

However, these types of stresses affect multiple domains in a person’s life. Work stress can create these types of stresses in your relationships. Our relationship stress can make it more difficult to manage difficult emotions.

For instance, if your family is struggling financially or with a severe illness, the stress can become chronic. If someone in your home may not be able to work, bills are piling up and your home is nearing foreclosure. And this can leave you stressed for months or even a year or more.

Health consequences

However, chronic stress can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems. Because chronic stress is so prolonged, it can have a hazardous impact on your health and well-being if left untreated. Some potential health consequences related to chronic stress include:-

  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • a weakened immune system
  • sexual dysfunction
  • skin irritation
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • respiratory problems
  • autoimmune disorders
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • schizophrenia etc.

Treatment process

If chronic stress may cause several significant distress or impairing your ability to function normally, professional treatment can help you develop new coping skills and find ways to lower your stress levels. Options include:-

  • Psychotherapy: In psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you learn to identify negative thought patterns that contribute to chronic stress. Working with a therapist, you can then begin to change these thoughts to more realistic, helpful ones.
  • Medications: Sometimes, doctors recommend helping treat some symptoms of chronic stress. For instance, they may prescribe antidepressants to treat anxiety or depression. For people with trouble sleeping, doctors may prescribe sedatives.
  • Get better sleep: A couple of hours before your scheduled bedtime start doing relaxing activities like as reading books, taking a bath, listing to music, and meditation.
  • Get professional help: A professional person can coach you through your stress by tailoring strategies to  your stressors and your personality.