5 Hidden Effects of Stress

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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  • Anita Bruzzese

    A timely post in view of Rosie O’Donnell admitting she waited to call the doctor for 24 hours after experiencing a heart attack! Am curious: Do you think men or women handle stress better?

  • Brent

    It is sad that American culture has evolved into an over worked society where most companies don’t think outside the box enough to allow employees to (1) work from home once or twice per week; (2) enjoy health benefits; (3) not stay on call 18 hours a day. This is why I am going to start my own business. I refuse to live the life of my Baby Boomer parents. It’s hell on earth as far as I can tell. Modern day slavery. I am 27 and I see the world for what it is. Screw the 9 to 6.

  • Stephen Trevathan

    The more I learn about the negative effects of stress, the more I try and embrace various methods of relaxation. I feel like this is especially important during a long work day, since it can be quite exhausting if I let myself get frustrated at any small inconvenience. I recently spoke with someone who has rheumatoid arthritis, and they mentioned how too much stress can cause a flare-up for RA patients. They actually pointed me to a really helpful article at: http://www.availclinical.com/news/5-methods-for-coping-with-an-ra-flare-up/

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  • Leigha Kraemer

    This blog is very informative. It helped me learn that the health issues I face are a result of my stress. I am a high school student who is challenged to find a way to balance my family, my friends, and my schoolwork. This task is very difficult and I constantly find myself with headaches and stomachaches. Before reading this blog, I thought I was sick, but now I realize that these symptoms are caused by stress. For my health class, I am working on a project revolved around the question, How can high levels of stress during my teenage years affect my health later on in life? I discovered many answers to my question through this blog. Are there any specific illnesses you can develop later on in life that are caused by a high level of stress during your teenage years?

    Thank you for your time!

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  • Leigha Kraemer


    Can someone please answer my question because my project is due very soon!


  • Stephen Trevathan

    Hey, I recently read another article that too me showed just how harmful long term stress can be. Studies have shown that our bodies can overact following a long-term period where our stress levels have been high. In particular, researchers are finding that stress is a leading cause of episodic back pain. You can read more about this here: http://www.clinicaltrialsgps.com/clinical-trials/stress-leading-cause-episodic-back-pain/

  • Stephen Marks

    Hello, I recently read this article on the risk factors for high blood pressure. I always felt like high levels of stress could be unhealthy for people who do have hypertension, and so I figured I would share this resource with you: http://www.achieveclinical.com/news/top-risk-factors-for-hypertension/

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