What is Chronic Stress?

Steve R.

Chronic stress is continual exposure to acute stressors, and may lead to serious mental health issues, such as depression, as well as physical ailments, including heart problems. When an individual suffers from the condition, he inadequately adapts to stress, causing high levels of hormones called glucocorticoids to remain in the blood and tissues. When these hormones linger, it negatively impacts the body. Chronic stress can be induced by a number of factors, including work, relationships, and financial worries. With the condition, an individual may eventually grow accustomed to a feeling of hopelessness, but the ailment can often be treated with medication and therapy.

Chronic stress can cause physical pain.
Chronic stress can cause physical pain.

Mental symptoms associated with high stress levels often include difficulty remembering things, poor judgment, constant worry, and lack of concentration. Emotionally, an individual suffering from abundant stress may feel overwhelmed and experience moodiness, irritability, and feelings of isolation. Physical symptoms of chronic stress may include headaches, backaches, muscle tension and trouble sleeping. Other physical indicators may include constantly being tired, changes in weight, and even heart palpitations. Social and behavioral symptoms related to abundant stress may include isolating oneself, overreacting to situations, pacing, and nail biting.

Individuals may experience chronic stress at work.
Individuals may experience chronic stress at work.

Chronic stress may arise due to a situation that lingers or is ongoing, such as a troubled relationship or an illness. The condition is exasperated by internal stressors, such as fears and expectations. Over time, the constant worrying may have long lasting effects and may even become fatal.

Students often feel chronic stress.
Students often feel chronic stress.

A person suffering from the condition is also prone to certain health risks. A person with chronic stress puts himself at risk for cardiovascular diseases, as stress causes the heart to work faster. Stress also leads to the constriction of arteries and thickening of the blood, which promotes blood clots. In high stress levels can increase blood pressure, which puts a person at greater risk for strokes.

Relaxing in a warm bath can help reduce stress.
Relaxing in a warm bath can help reduce stress.

Persistent stress also puts an individual at risk for infections and immune disorders. High stress levels causes a person's white blood cell count to increase, making her vulnerable to colds and the flu, as well as conditions like eczema and lupus. In addition, a person suffering from constant stress is at risk for developing diabetes. High stress levels makes a person more resistant to insulin, which is needed to regulate blood sugar levels.

Chronic stress can cause changes in brain chemistry that make some people more susceptible to anxiety and other disorders.
Chronic stress can cause changes in brain chemistry that make some people more susceptible to anxiety and other disorders.

Chronic stress can be managed through exercise, getting at least seven hours of sleep daily, and eating a healthier diet. Therapy may also be helpful for a person with the condition. Cognitive behavior therapy aims to change a person's thoughts and behaviors that are causing perceived stress. Biofeedback therapy focuses on teaching people ways to deal with physiological responses to stressful circumstances.

A person dealing with chronic stress should try to set aside time to relax with friends and family.
A person dealing with chronic stress should try to set aside time to relax with friends and family.
Students taking a class that is not one of their strengths have chronic stress.
Students taking a class that is not one of their strengths have chronic stress.
People who are dealing with chronic stress may engage in unhealthy habits.
People who are dealing with chronic stress may engage in unhealthy habits.
Chronic stress can cause acne.
Chronic stress can cause acne.
Therapy may be helpful for a person with chronic stress.
Therapy may be helpful for a person with chronic stress.
People dealing with chronic stress might start drinking in excess.
People dealing with chronic stress might start drinking in excess.

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Discussion Comments

Rundocuri

People who read this article and realize that they are putting their health at risk with the stress they are facing should take the important step of seeking medical attention. There are a variety of treatment options from medications to therapy to support groups, so there are ways to cope with stress before health problems occur.

Heavanet

This article makes a lot of good warnings about persistent stress that are worth heeding. I have a friend who suffered from years of work-related stress, and ended up with high blood pressure. She had no choice but to change her work situation for the good of her health. Once she got a different job, she was able to control her blood pressure without medication.

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