Symptoms of Stress


The symptoms of stress can show up mentally, physically, emotionally or behavourally and within each category they cover a wide range of symptoms. There is no one list of symptoms that describes stress because the symptoms themselves are highly subjective and as varied as we are.

Stress Symptoms show up differently for each one of us

This is because each of us experiences stress differently. A steep roller coaster dive might be enormously distressful for some of us yet the same ride can be pleasant for others. Our stress responses are also widely different. Some people blush others pale, some eat more, some less.

As you look over this abbreviated pie chart of body, mind, emotions and behavior symptoms you may begin to realize that your stress symptoms fall more into one group more than another. This may give you helpful clues for choosing stress management techniques and knowing how to handle stress in your individual situation.

List of Symptoms caused by Stress

There are numerous symptoms of stress from each of the four groups, as illustrated by the following list many common signs of stress as listed by the American Institute of Stress.

Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain Gritting, grinding teeth Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
Stuttering or stammering Trouble learning new information Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms Difficulty in making decisions
Light headedness, faintness, dizziness Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed Ringing, buzzing or “popping” sounds
Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts Frequent blushing, sweating Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
Cold or sweaty hands, feet Little interest in appearance, punctuality Dry mouth, problems swallowing
Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps” Overreaction to petty annoyances Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
Increased number of minor accidents Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea Obsessive or compulsive behaviour
Excess belching, flatulence Reduced work efficiency or productivity Constipation, diarrhoea
Lies or excuses to cover up poor work Difficulty breathing, sighing Rapid or mumbled speech
Sudden attacks of panic Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness Chest pain, palpitations
Problems in communication, sharing Frequent urination Social withdrawal and isolation
Poor sexual desire or performance Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs Increased anger, frustration, hostility Weight gain or loss without diet
Depression, frequent or wild mood swings Increased or decreased appetite Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
Feeling Tired all the Time Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use Excessive gambling or impulse buying

As demonstrated in the above list, symptoms of stress can show up in a mind bogglingly wide range, and have huge impact and effects on our sense of self, our emotions, moods and behaviours.

How stressed am I?

You may see a number of symptoms that describe you, and yet have trouble grasping that stress is their cause. It may be hard to think of stress as their direct cause, when often the symptom is in itself a cause of stress, and perpetually locked into a vicious cause-effect cycle.

Another reason it is hard to tell if you are “really that stressed”, is because mental disorders, even full blown mental, mood and emotional dysfunctions, that were rare have now become the norm and worrisomely we have come to accept them as normal.

How would we know what freedom from stress is like it we have never experienced any other kind of existence?

We may also have trouble grasping the seriousness of stress because, well, stress is a brain killer. It impairs our judgement, memory, and much more. Neuroscientists are warning us about disregarding the fragility of our brains with regard to stress.

And our brain is only one of the systems that we can be unaware of, or worse oblivious to, being heavily affected by stress overload.