Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a specific situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Because of this, therapies and treatments that are effective in reducing stress can often help alleviate anxiety as well.
If you look at the mechanics of stress closely, you’ll notice that they resemble the symptoms of anxiety. Whether in good times or bad, most people say that stress interferes at least moderately with their lives. Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health.
No part of the mind or body is immune from stress. The symptoms of chronic stress are well-documented and include the following.
Emotional symptoms of stress
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem)
- Feeling overwhelmed (like you’re losing control)
- Having difficulty relaxing
- Trouble quieting your mind
- Low sex drive
- Compulsive behavior
- Mood swings
Cognitive symptoms of stress
- Being pessimistic
- Constant worrying
- Impaired memory
- Concentration problems
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts
Behavioral symptoms of stress
- Absenteeism (a habitual pattern of absence from work, school, or other commitment)
- Changes in appetite (either not eating or eating too much)
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Withdrawal (avoiding others)
Physical symptoms of stress
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and heart palpitations
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Frequent colds and infections
- High blood pressure
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Low energy
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Skin rashes
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Stress is often a trigger for a panic attack. Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, there can be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce or job loss can also trigger panic attacks. Because of this, treatment for anxiety should always address stress management.
When the body is repeatedly assaulted by the stress, anxiety builds. Left unabated, stress-related illnesses such as anxiety disorders can develop. Addressing stress with nutritional supplements in the early stages may prevent this development.
Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.
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