What is chronic stress?

chronic stress

This blog is a brief guide on chronic stress, its physiological explanation, and definition, how this is considered one of the main factors on the damaged nature of the body and mind of the person, various products from Amazon and methods to alleviate this kind of stress, and the outcomes of this kind of stress.

What is chronic stress?

What is a Chronic Stress?

Chronic stress is the kind of stress that results from repeated exposure to situations that lead to the release of stress hormones. Most of the provoking situations are usually about significant changes in one’s life such as a new job, moving to another country, moving to another school, and getting married. This kind of stress is considered as the result of the overworking stress response which causes significant damage to the mind and the body. This chronic stress may also be the outcome of people living in a fast-paced world which makes them feel obligated to be constantly on the run with new updates on every aspect of life. 

Also, the physical and mental damage caused by chronic stress may be triggered due to a predisposition to a specific disease. This will be discussed later in the article under the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Stress in the Body and Mind. One must know the symptoms of chronic stress to gain awareness that the person is going through such a volatile response. It is also imperative for the person to not overreact to this kind of stress and know that this is considered a normal response to the stimuli that provoke it.

What is chronic stress?

Acute Stress

Acute stress is a short version of the discussed kind of stress. It tends to be provoked by some major events and minor events including losing the remote control. This kind of stress is not as severe as the other kind of stress but may also serve as a gateway for the excessive kind of stress. Nevertheless, acute stress can be relieved by getting immediate attention by seeking social support.

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Stress

The difference between a sign and a symptom is that a sign is an objective observation noticed by outsiders of the person while a symptom is the subjective report of the person in how he/she is feeling with some parts of his body or even his/her current mental state. As mentioned before, the signs and symptoms of chronic stress are usually the physical and mental manifestations that occur in the person. Various physical and mental disorders are associated with this kind of stress. The following section discusses the physical and mental manifestations of chronic stress.

Effects on the Body

There are several outcomes seen on the body caused by the overwhelming feeling of chronic stress. These physical diseases are wide-ranging but this article will be focusing on illnesses that are the leading causes of death and other physical symptoms. The reader should be informative and open-minded about the following diseases because some have known treatment or still researching its treatments. If you know someone with the following symptoms of physical disease, it is always better to start preventing such diseases by going to a medical professional right away.

What is chronic stress?

Heart Disease

This disease refers to the issues and damages in the heart, unlike other cardiovascular diseases. This disease is one of the leading causes of death in most industrial countries in the world such as the United States. The knowledge of this kind of information makes one conscious of the seriousness of someone in the state of chronic stress. This may also imply that this kind of stress may cause even death when not managed well.

High Blood Pressure

If blood pressure is too high during long periods, it can cause significant damage to blood vessels. This long-term blood pressure can put a strain on the walls of the arteries. This damage can cause life-threatening complications such as heart failure, vision loss, and stroke. One of the methods in minimizing significant blood pressure is to exercise which is recommended to acquire a treadmill here.

Cancer

Cancer arises from the overgrowing of malignant cells causing tumors on the concentrated part of the body such as the breasts or lungs. However, some types of cancer do not cause tumors such as leukemia which is considered a milder form than lung cancer. It was found Australian scientists that chronic stress initiates the development of a tumor in a concentrated part of the body. This is also one of the physical disorders that may be caused by a genetic diathesis.      

Social support is a factor in dealing with serious illnesses such as cancer, therefore, it is recommended that you check out this book, “How to Help Someone with Cancer” by Pyle in this website. We can see that chronic stress is a factor of most of the mentioned serious illnesses. It may also be necessary for the person to ask their local medical professional for tips on alleviating this kind of stress. The following section discusses the effects of chronic stress on the mind of the person. 

The Nervous System’s Response to Stress

Chronic stress occurs when the body experiences stressful events with such high intensity that the autonomic nervous system does not have a chance to activate the relaxation response every day. The lack of this relaxation response enables the body to be susceptible to various physical diseases. This also arouses the body to be in constant alert and action, making the stressful person overwork oneself to the point of exhaustion.

Also when in stress, the brain’s hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to produce a hormone activating the adrenal glands and then increasing the production of cortisol. The cortisol is also considered as a stress hormone since it tends to be released during stressful events and may damage some brain functions such as the hippocampus, the memory storage. Usually, this hormone releases on everyday but chronic stress tend to release more cortisol since it is reactive to the stress response. For more information on the stress response, check out Kalat’s book, “Biological Psychology” which discusses on the HPA axis and regulation of the hypothalamus during stress, available here. 

Effects on the Mind

As chronic stress affects the body, it also seems to be evident in its influence on the mind as well. We tend to disregard our thoughts for the sake of meeting every person’s needs. This can also be a factor of chronic stress such that trying to prioritize other’s needs and forgetting one’s needs. There are ways in preventing such a violent spiral of self-torture and check out this book, “The Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson, which helps guide people to learn what matters the most in their lives, click here.

People tend to misunderstand people diagnosed with psychological disorders by seeing such misdeed to be a genetic failure, God’s punishment, or even social isolation. Sometimes, psychological disorders may be an extreme expression of basic human emotions such as joy, fear, anger, and sadness. As mentioned before, chronic stress also affects the mind, sometimes to the point of making the person overthink on the stressful event leading to a psychological illness. Here are the most common psychological disorders that chronic stress may have caused the disorder.

What is chronic stress?

Depression

This disorder is described as the feeling of being constantly sad and no pleasure in activities that the person engaged in before the symptoms of the disorder. This was also considered as one of the main causes of disability in the world, making this one of the most prioritized psychological studies and the most difficult to work with the clinical psychology field. Most of the time, this disorder is triggered by a significant event involving a loss such as the death of a loved one and losing a job. This condition can be treated with proper social support and therapy from a trusted psychologist.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that makes us prepare for any kind of event but having it in extreme doses can immobilize a person which affects daily events. This is the most common psychological disorder in the world. With excessive amounts of anxiety, the person tends to be more worried without any major event causing such worrying, and they will also have sleep problems due to worrying, and panic attacks. There are different anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and separation anxiety disorder. Sometimes, the therapist is needed to guide the patient to know how to handle stress making them deal with anxiety effectively.

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and other cognitive disturbances. This is a long-term disease since most people diagnosed with this disorder tend to not take medications seriously and are constantly convinced in their delusions. The process of how chronic stress causes schizophrenia is described as the worrying provoked by a stressful event that may have led to the cognitive impairments inherent in this disorder. Therapy must focus on the underlying cause of the disease.

Conclusion

This just proves that chronic stress is not for ignorant minds. You should be able to know the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and how to seek help when needed. You can also inquire about this book, “Be Calm” by Dr. Weber which helps in finding ways in dealing with stress and is found here. You can write down a comment below if you know other effects of this kind of stress and share your thoughts on how you or others try to manage this kind of stress in your everyday lives.

FAQ Questions:

What are the five symptoms of chronic stress?

The five symptoms of chronic stress are high blood pressure, skin diseases, anxiety, depression, headaches, upset stomach, tense muscles, sleeping problems, frequent colds and infections, loss of sexual desire, chest pains, and fatigue.

What does chronic stress do to the body?

Chronic stress can lead to many health problems such as mental disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

What are the various examples of chronic stress?

The examples of chronic stressful events are disorders such as chronic pain, mental and emotional abuse, and losing a job or losing a loved one.

Can chronic stress kill you?

Chronic stress can kill you in many ways such as increased levels of cortisol which leads to lower immune function, increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease.

How do you recover from prolonged stress?

The American Psychological Association (APA) has delivered tips to recover from chronic stress such as setting limits by making a priority list of projects and commitments that are overwhelming for you, connect with your social support, make at least one health-related task, enhance your sleep quality, have a positive outlook, and seek additional help like professional help.

Citations:

Cancer.net Editorial Board. (2019, August). What is Cancer?. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Retrieved from: here 

Center for Studies on Human Stress. (2019). Acute Vs. Chronic Stress. Center for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS). Retrieved from: here

Felman, A. (2018, February). Everything you need to know about heart disease. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here

Felman, A. (2018, October). What to know about anxiety. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here

Felman, A. (2019, November). What to know about high blood pressure. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here

Goldman, L. (2019, November). What is depression and what can I do about it?. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here

Kandola, A. (2018, October). What are the health effects of chronic stress?. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here 

Kane, S. (2018, October). Long-Term Effects of Chronic Stress on Body and Mind. Psych Central. Retrieved from: here 

Newman, T. (2017, December). Understanding the symptoms of schizophrenia. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved from: here

Scott, E., MS. (2019, October). How Does Chronic Stress Negatively Affect Your Health?. Verywellmind, About, Inc. Retrieved from: here 

Segal, J., PhD, Smith, M., MA, Segal, R., MA, & Robinson, L. (2019, October). Stress Symptoms, Signs and Causes. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: here 

Shaw, W., PhD, Labott-Smith, S., PhD, ABPP, Burg, M. M., PhD, Hostinar, C., PhD, Alen, N., BA, van Tilburg, A. L. M., PhD, Bernston, G. G., PhD, Tovian, S. M., PhD, ABPP, FAClinP, FAClinHP, & Spirito, M., PsyD, Med. (2019). Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC. Retrieved from: here 

What is chronic stress?

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.