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Look up the symptoms of stress and you’ll find well more than 50 that are typically cited in medical annals. That’s because stress affects every aspect of your bodily functioning, and everyone experiences and expresses stress differently.
Here are some of the most common stress symptoms:
- Frequent headaches
- Increased compulsive behaviors, like gambling or shopping
- Muscle aches and spasms (could occur anywhere but most commonly affected are the neck and back)
- Lightheadedness, faintness, or dizziness
- Ringing, buzzing or “popping” sounds in the ears
- Frequent blushing or sweating
- Cold, clammy, or sweaty hands or feet
- Dry mouth or problems swallowing
- Frequent colds or infections
- Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, or other stomach upset
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden attacks of intense panic
- Chest pain, palpitations, or rapid pulse
- Diminished sexual desire or performance
- Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, or nervousness
- Increased anger, frustration, hostility, irritability, or edginess
- Depression or wild mood swings
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating or learning new things, racing thoughts
- Difficulty in making decisions
- Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
- Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
- Nervous habits like fidgeting, feet tapping, or tooth grinding
- Reduced work efficiency or productivity
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Constant tiredness, weakness, or fatigue
- Weight gain or loss without diet
- Increased smoking, alcohol, or drug use
Signs of Too Much Stress
Everyone experiences some of the above symptoms, so how do you know when stress is becoming too much? Well, the first sign is simply that you feel like it’s unbearable. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stress in your life, it’s definitely time to get help.
Of course, some people are not so in tune with their bodies that they hear those inner messages, so what other signs are there? It might be that others have seen a change in you. You might be more irritable or impatient or less attentive, caring, or focused. If people who love you are consistently telling you to get help, you should probably listen to them.
Probably one of the most obvious signs of stress overload is that something has changed in a consistent and negative way. Maybe your sleep is suffering, your weight is changing, you can’t get as much work done as you used to, or you’re not enjoying life the way you once did. Other signs could be marital problems, fatigue, or new or worsening chronic pain.
Any time you see a negative pattern of change in your health or well-being, take it as a sign that something is up. It might be stress, an impending illness, or simply the consequences of aging. The only way to find out for sure it to talk to your doctor.
Originally published in May 2016 and updated.