How Stress Physically Kills Your Body

Stress is a natural part of life; at no point in a person’s life will there be an extended period of time wherein they are not subject to at least some form of stress. In fact, studies have shown that small amounts of manageable stress can actually bring some physical and mental health benefits.

Of course, that assumes that all stress is small and/or manageable. But the reality is that, while big and unmanageable stressful situations might be far and few in between, constantly battling stressors can take a huge toll on a person’s body. We’ve talked about managing your stress levels before, but too often, people think that stress is only dangerous when it’s big and loud. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Minor, but consistent, stress can be just as deadly as major ones. Stress can, and often does, kill people; there are stories of overworked office workers around the world just dropping dead at their desk because of fatigue. However, what people don’t see are the symptoms of stress. Here, we take a look at some common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for.

Frequent Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms, if managed properly, can be minor inconveniences at best: stuffy nose, mild headaches, a general feeling of malaise, all of these can be treated by a little bit of rest, plenty of fluids, maybe an aspirin or two.

flu symptoms

However, studies have shown that stress increases the chances of these flu-like symptoms from appearing. Unfortunately, many people treat it as simple after-effects of fatigue. But continually ignoring these symptoms could lead to worse conditions.

Stress doesn’t have to be a mental thing all the time: physical stress can come about from not resting after strenuous activities like marathons or the gym. Often, people will ignore rest after doing such activities because they believe that it’s unnecessary, which is rarely the case.

But the biggest culprit is people not getting enough sleep. The average adult needs around 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This helps your body recover from all the stress it received throughout the day. Flu symptoms will regularly appear as soon as a person stops getting enough rest and sleep, and can easily snowball into worse conditions if not taken care of immediately.

Research has also shown that psychological stress can not only increase flu symptoms but actually intensify them. Scientists found that patients who underwent psychological stressors during an experiment were more likely to develop respiratory issues, nausea, and insomnia as compared to patients who were not subjected to stressors.

If you’re experiencing regular flu-like symptoms, it might not be the flu. Take some time to relax, get a few good nights’ sleep, and unwind your mind from your troubles. If you notice that it’s made you feel lighter, then stress was the cause.

Respiratory and Dermatological Issues

But it’s not just flu symptoms that flare up during times of constant stress: many people report having their asthma and/or eczema being triggered by small stressful events. Of course, respiratory and dermatological conditions do have certain triggers, like exercise, smoke, allergens, etc., but stress is almost always overlooked as a cause for these flare ups.


In a recent study, scientists found that children diagnosed with asthma often found themselves short of breath and close (if not experiencing it full-blown) to an asthma attack immediately following a psychologically or emotionally stressful event such as a failed exam, death of a loved one, and others. In fact, scientists found that children with asthma were twice as likely to have a subsequent attack after traumatic events as compared to children without. But what’s more disturbing is that the risk of an asthma attack increases exponentially after the event, in such a way that 2 weeks after a stressful situation, these children are three times more likely to have another attack.

This statistic is fairly similar to children and adults with eczema. Many adults ignore eczema flare-ups and dismiss it as a minor inconvenience that can be treated with over-the-counter medication. However, if eczema flare-ups are happening much more often than usual, it might be time to reassess your current psychological and emotional state. Remember that stress is not just a bodily response to physical strain, your body will give you psychosomatic reminders to slow down.

IBS, and Other Gastro-Intestinal Issues

Just as bad as asthma and eczema flare-ups, stressors can also aggravate existing gastrointestinal disorders, and in some cases, even causes it. Scientists have always known about the link between chronic stress and the onset of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, or GERD.


As mentioned earlier, chronic stress can lead not just to physical symptoms, but psychosomatic conditions like insomnia, binge eating/drinking, and lack of exercise, among others. These all wreak havoc on a person’s gastrointestinal system, causing GERD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, acid reflux, chronic heartburn, and many more.

In a 2009 study by the American College of Gastroenterology, scientists found that patients with GERD were more likely to have psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, all of which can contribute to chronically high levels of stress as compared to people without GERD. By treating the stressors (in this case, mental health issues), doctors found a drastic improvement in patients with GERD, furthering our understanding of the connection between stress and psychosomatic conditions.

Approaching the Problem Holistically

It’s time for people to see stress as a disease rather than as a condition for living. Psychiatrists from suggest that regular visits to your psychiatrist can improve your mental health, which, in turn, improves your overall health. Of course, this isn’t to say that one should avoid pharmaceuticals: if a doctor prescribes it, it’s best to take it.


But drugs shouldn’t be your only medicine; a holistic, whole-being approach is necessary when talking about physical and mental health, and it’s always a great idea to see a mental health professional when you notice your stress becoming a chronic thing.

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