Maybe this sounds a little overdramatic, but unfortunately the reality is that excessive, untreated stress can actually kill you. When you’re stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which is designed to get your rear in gear as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. However, this hormone is meant to be released only occasionally in small doses – when stress causes it to be secreted for long periods of time, the body reacts with a variety of different health consequences.
The following are seven of the major health effects caused by stress. If you’re experiencing any of these conditions and believe they may be linked to stress, seek medical counseling as soon as possible:
Diabetes occurs when the body produces too little insulin to process all the sugars in your body. As these sugars build up, you may experience a number of health problems including thirst, headaches and weight loss. Over time, the condition can cause complications ranging from heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, nerve damage, diabetic neuropathy, skin conditions, and gastrointestinal problems.
2. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often referred to as a “silent killer” because there are few actual symptoms that present with the disease. High levels of stress can bring on this condition, which can result in an aneurysm, coronary heart disease, enlarged heart, damage to the brain and even heart attack. If that isn’t a good enough reason to learn to manage your stress – I don’t know what is!
3. Weight Gain
People under high levels of stress often experience fluctuations in weight – as anyone who’s ever taken comfort in candy bars knows all to well. However, if your weight gain gets out of control, you could be putting yourself at risk for developing cancer, heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, liver disease and gallbladder disease. If you notice that you’ve put on a few pounds, try hitting the gym – exercise is also a natural stress reliever.
4. Susceptibility to Disease
Your body can only do so much – when you’re under constant pressure, its resources are being diverted to help respond to stress. This leaves the immune system compromised and susceptible to infection by viruses and bacteria. If you’ve ever noticed yourself coming down with a bug when you’re at your most stressed, it isn’t just a coincidence – it’s your body letting you know that you’re under too much stress to handle safely.
Constant stress can make you feel like there’s no way out of your predicament, which can eventually lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Depression is a serious disease – it’s nothing to take lightly. If you find yourself feeling trapped by feelings of despair and despondency, seek professional help immediately.
6. Heart Disease
Type A people beware – stress can and does cause heart disease and heart attacks. Stress contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. As the arteries narrow, the heart has to push the blood even harder to distribute it throughout the body. Over time, this extra stress on the heart can have devastating effects.
While there’s no proven link between stress and cancer, it’s widely accepted that excessive stress is a risk factor for developing a type of this deadly disease. Overall, stress weakens the immune system which may allow cancerous tissues to develop and flourish. If you feel that excessive negative stress is causing your immune system to break down, seek help to learn effective stress management techniques that allow you to cope properly.