Symptoms of Stress

The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety (2009), a leading provider of self-care programs, explained,

Stress is a completely normal physical response to any event or occurrence that impresses pressures or danger upon your daily life. Your body’s response to stress evolved as a way to remain alert and aware during times of physical danger. Because of this, stress can be very helpful for short time frames; it allows us to focus on the task at hand. However, when the pressures of stress fail to dissolve in a timely manner, long-term symptoms have a tendency to arise. (para. 3)

According to the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety (2009), early physical symptoms of stress include headaches, problems with digestion, increased blood pressure, lowered sex drive, and a constant feeling of being tired or worn out. Additionally, emotional and behavioral symptoms include poor memory, poor concentration, pessimistic attitude, anxiety, mood swings, short-temper, and altered eating habits.

More long-term symptoms of stress include constant aches and pains, increased susceptibility to colds and illnesses, depression, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, eczema, hair loss, ulcers, and dental diseases (Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, 2009).

Isolation is another cause of stress. By the age of 3, we begin to be classified according to sex, religion, color, heredity, social class, clubs, and schools (Ornish, 1982). Our society reinforces our differences, not our similarities. Ornish pointed out that people are divided and separated by their classifications, successes, and failures.

In addition, Ornish (1982) explained it is now suspected that people who feel isolated age more quickly than people with companionship. L. Larson (1995) pointed out that babies who are not fondled or touched might die from lack of physical contact. If children are handled too little, they might also fail to thrive or suffer retarded development. Married couples or people living with others (even if only with a pet) live longer than those alone (Ornish, p. 70). “Furthermore, in my professional work, I have noted that [intensive care unit] patients have a more stable heart beat when they are physically touched” (p. 71).

Stress is not an invisible enemy. It reveals itself in our health in general, and our eyes, hair, stance, skin, personality, and demeanor (Maltz, 1968). Many dermatology patients develop conditions that symbolically demonstrate those emotions they cannot express verbally. Teenage acne breakouts are often diagnosed as weeping skin, eczema, skin rashes, hives, factional dermatitis, psoriasis, or hyperhidrosis, and even surface wrinkles are clues to a person’s inner state.

However, it is not stress itself that is destructive but the way we respond to it. Some children lead heavily burdened lives yet find that life’s challenges spur creativity and ultimate satisfaction. Others fall apart at the slightest provocation, regarding life as a joyless series of problems. Elkind (1981/1988) stated,

We cannot determine just from the objective amount of stress a person is under what his or her reaction to that stress may be. We need to know something about the person and about the stress situation before we can predict how the stress will affect the individual. (p. 150)