5 Hidden Effects of Stress

Aug 21, 2012
4 Min Read

Stress, a response that has evolved in humans over hundreds of thousands of years, is something we working professionals tend to take for granted.  We have to wake up in the morning – every morning – commute to an office, accomplish any number of tasks while proving our overall value to the organization, contend with a multitude of factors that are beyond our control, and arrive home in time to eek out some semblance of a personal life in between smartphone checks.  How could this not be stressful?

What’s more surprising, though, are the ways stress insidiously wrecks havoc on our lives in ways we don’t expect, such as:

Undiagnosed Illness

I once knew a family medicine physician who claimed that half of the patient complaints he heard had no legitimate medical cause.  I don’t believe that half of all people are hypochondriacs, but it certainly seems plausible that ongoing stress can result in physical ailments like stomachaches and headaches that medical tests can’t explain.

Memory Loss

Stress may cause more incidences of forgetfulness – misplacing items, missing appointments, and losing track of conversations.  Maybe you’re not just pregnant or getting older (i.e. the common excuses).  It’s time to consider that your lapses may be stress-related.


When a usually even-tempered person becomes short with colleagues with little provocation, it can be a warning sign that something else is going on.  Rapid swings from very good to very bad moods are also concerning, as they signal that stress is negatively impacting brain chemistry.

Sweating the Small Stuff

For some, stress takes the form of worry over every little thing, from a red light at a busy intersection to the wrong ink color on your meeting printouts.  If you find yourself always moving from one insignificant worry to the next, it’s probably time to look at the bigger picture and determine what’s really bothering you.

Carbohydrate Cravings

Stress is closely tied to the adrenal system, causing us to desire products made with refined sugar and salt.  Ironically, though, sugar prompts the adrenal glands to release more stress hormones, keeping us trapped in a vicious cycle.  And, of course, the more carbs you eat, the heavier you get and the worse you feel.

Because these changes are subtle, you may be inclined to ignore them.  Unfortunately, the hidden effects of stress often become more overt effects, like sleeplessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and actual physical and mental disease.  Therefore, it’s in your best interest to take active measures to reduce your stress level through exercise, meditation, and other relaxing activities.

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