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Stress Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of stress? Dr Bryan Fehilly, Senior Occupational Health Physician explains how many stress symptoms are subtle and appear to bear little relation to the cause of the stress itself.

What can checking my stress symptoms achieve?

Many are feelings and behaviours which we may all show at one time or another. Alone, they may be of little significance, but when several arise together, a stress-related problem may be present. Becoming aware of a problem is your first step towards dealing with it. By completing a stress check questionnaire with your GP or OH, you can identify the signs and symptoms of stress. You can then use this to monitor how strategies for dealing with aspects of stress are working for you.  You may be suffering from work related stress or stress caused by other life factors. However, it’s important you deal with the source of stress, rather than the outward manifestations of it.

What if I don’t deal with the causes of my stress?

Our bodies response to stress will involve most of our body systems. Excessive, frequent and prolonged action of the stress response can lead to a variety of diseases.

The response to stress is seen most clearly in the cardiovascular system where heart attacks, angina, high blood pressure, strokes and migraine have all been associated with stress.

The digestive system is also very vulnerable as it shuts down during the stress response. Indigestion, nausea, heartburn, ulcers, diarrhoea, constipation and flatulence (wind) can all result from stress.

We release many chemicals in the stress response which can affect our immune system. Chronic over-stimulation of this system makes it less able to deal with infections and more prone to illnesses related to the immune system like cancer, arthritis and allergies. There may even be a link to ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis).

What are the physical and mental signs of stress?

• Having difficulty relaxing
• Being tired most of the time
• Feeling bored for extended periods of time
• Being uncharacteristically aggressive
• Feeling unable to cope and a failure
• Having difficulty concentrating
• Being easily irritated by people or events
• Feeling a strong desire to cry for no obvious reason
• Losing interest in sex
• Feeling depressed or anxious
• Feeling alone with your worries and anxiety
• Palpitations
• Becoming accident prone
• More frequent headaches
• Increased reliance upon smoking or alcohol