Common mental and physical side effects of stress

Stress affects everybody. Picture: Pexels Liza Summer

Stress affects everybody. Picture: Pexels Liza Summer

Published Sep 9, 2023


No matter how hard you try to avoid it, stress has become a part of our lives.

For some, it might be due to work pressures while for others it could be personal relationships. These days, for many people, a lack of finances is a major cause of stress.

The severity thereof varies from one person to another. The same goes for how you cope with it. Some people are able to manage stress better than others.

While it’s normal to stress sometimes, it’s abnormal and unhealthy to be stressed all the time.

Prolonged and chronic stress can have long-lasting physical and mental side effects.

Here’s a look at some of the common consequences of stress on our bodies and minds.


Cardiovascular problems

Stress triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

Weakened immune system

Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses and resulting in slower recovery times.

Digestive issues

Stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to issues such as stomach pains, nausea, diarrhoea, or constipation.

Sleep disorders

Stress can interfere with the quality and duration of sleep. Insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or waking up frequently during the night are common sleep disturbances associated with stress.

Insomnia is a common side effect. Picture: Pexels Cottonbro studio

Muscle tension and pain

Stress often manifests in physical symptoms like muscle tension, headaches, and body aches. Prolonged muscle tension can contribute to chronic pain conditions such as tension headaches, migraines, and backaches.


Anxiety and depression

Chronic stress can trigger and exacerbate anxiety disorders and depression. Persistent feelings of worry, fear, or sadness can significantly impact one's mental well-being, leading to a reduced quality of life and impaired daily functioning.

Cognitive impairment

Stress impairs cognitive function, affecting memory, concentration, and decision-making abilities. It becomes harder to focus, retain information, and process complex tasks effectively.

Mood swings and irritability

It can cause irritability, mood swings, and a reduced tolerance for frustration. Individuals may become easily agitated, short-tempered, or experience emotional outbursts.

Decreased libido

Stress can dampen sexual desire and disrupt sexual functioning. It affects hormone levels, decreases energy levels, and contributes to relationship problems, further impacting one's mental well-being.

Substance abuse

Some individuals turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, or drug use to alleviate stress. These behaviours can lead to addiction.

Related Topics:

mental health