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6 Emotional Symptoms of Stress

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Many people don’t realize what the emotional symptoms of stress are, and often fail to recognize them. In this article, we’re going to talk about the most common signs that you’re in an emotional distress, explain why these symptoms occur in our brains and how to get rid of them.

We live in a chaotic world and we don’t even realize all the stressors that we’re taking in from day to day. The first thing that suffers is our adrenal system – the hormonal system responsible for how we respond to stress.

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Stress Originates in the Brain

A lot of the time stress begins as a brain issue. A small, almond-shaped part of our brains called the amygdala is our early warning mechanism. It picks up things surrounding us and starts the infamous fight or flight response – an emergency action our brain produces to protect us from danger.


The amygdala gives the shot of adrenaline so that we’re immediately prepared to fight, or to run away. For example, some people run away when they see a snake, some decide to stop and kill the snake. There are also those who faint, the brain protects them from major emotional turmoil.

In some cases, the amygdala fires off when there’s actually no danger because it often misinterprets the signs from the environment. The amygdala sits next to the limbic system and the hippocampus, parts of the brain where our emotions and memories are set. The “fight of flight” response happens before we’re able to logically think about the situation we’re in, before the conscious brain can “turn on” and remember if we’ve been in a similar situation and whether it’s the stressful and worrisome one.

1. Fatigue & Sleep Disorders

When it comes to stress, people react differently. Even though anxiety is tiring in general, it causes high levels of fatigue, drains and forces many people to sleep a lot – some people can’t sleep at all. Sleep disturbances – either insomnia or sleeping too much – if they occur two or more times per week when there’s nothing physically wrong should be seen as the alarm clock.

Sometimes vacation or a simple meditation can bring calming to the body. There are a lot of simple ways like exercise or socializing to balance out all the over-stimulation that we’ve put in our system.

2. Temper Tantrums

Stress is dangerous for our mental and physical health. If you have difficulties managing your anger often – at school, work, or at home with your family – it can be the sign of stress overload.

You may not notice changes in your mood, but if your close ones are commenting on your angry outbursts and recent moodiness, listen to them. Irritability can be the early sign of depression.

3. Forgetfulness

Sometimes forgetfulness can be mistaken for more serious diseases like dementia, but sometimes can even cause them. Many studies have shown that people suffering from chronic stress are more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease and several other memory-related issues.

Research has found that constant stress can lead whole branches of brain cells to shrink and wither.

4. Emotional Isolation

Even though social connections are important – almost essential like food to function properly – many of us isolate in difficult times.

Some people think that nobody cares for their issues and for this reason completely shut down; others feel difficulty sharing the intimate causes of their stress with others.

Loneliness leads to even more stress and it becomes a vicious cycle difficult to escape from.

5. Anxiety and Panic Attacks

People often confuse anxiety with stress because most of the time they go hand in hand, but they’re not the same thing. So what is the difference?

The biggest difference is our own experience of each. Majority of people cope with stress and handle it well. Anxiety is a bit more chronic and it occurs in people who often feel overwhelmed by stressful situations. It’s a constant, more extensive amount of stress. Anxiety is a tendency to loop in circles inside our own minds for things not going as we desired.

Research has found that exposure to stressful events in childhood and adolescence is among the top risk factors for developing generalized anxiety disorder.

Nearly everyone has experienced stress at one point of their lives. As stress becomes a chronic thing and a regular part of life, it starts to move people towards the anxiety. When people start to experience panic attacks, it’s the furthest point on the stress-scale.

Panic attack is that place you go when you don’t know what’s happening to your body, you hyperventilate, your heart beats like crazy and you feel like you’re going to die at any particular moment. We’ve all experienced a time when there’s no stress at all – perhaps on a vacation, and periods of anxiety, but not everyone has to experience panic attacks.

As we remove specific stressors from our lives, we tend to experience less anxiety. It’s a good idea to take a break from the things stressing you out, either work or school – and have some coping techniques that you know are working for you.

Without stress, we wouldn’t do much, we wouldn’t succeed in life. We wouldn’t be creative enough. Rather than banishing stress completely from our lives, we have to learn how to tame it and live with it. Although being a little stressed out or anxious can do a lot when it comes to work and deadlines, make sure it’s not ruining your health.

6. Depression

Chronic stress can be the cause of depression if not treated in time. If you have a hard time coping with stress, find support from your close ones, or even a therapist.

Researchers have found that chemical imbalances in the brain are not the only thing to blame for depression – prolonged exposure to stressful situations is found to be among the top three causes – together with genetic vulnerability and previously mentioned faulty brain chemicals.

Did you know that 13% of Americans live on antidepressants? The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry claims that most of those pills are taken by people who have never suffered from a depressive disorder, but are anxious and stressed out.

Being unable to deal with stressors forces us to resort to anything that is available and even slightly helpful in the given moment, no matter how harmful it is in the long run. It is extremely important to recognize how much stress you bring to your body, and – on the opposite side of the spectrum – how much relaxation and peace you bring to your mind.

percentage of americans on antidepressants

Learn How to Recognize Stressors

We as a society are so used to stress disturbing our lives that we don’t even notice it anymore. It has become part of everyday’s life. Having the ability to recognize stressors can have a profound and healing impact on our lives.

Therapy can be a great solution if naturesmilingscreaming, exercise, supplements and everything else fails. Therapist can help you differentiate real versus imagined causes of stress. Also, therapy helps to educate and brings focus on the thoughts – what goes through our heads and why.

Work hard towards finding the balance. If you feel you might be on the edge of emotional outburst, sit down with a friend or an expert to give you a true assessment of where you’re at, to help you repair your emotional health.

Additional Resources

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About the author

Alena Scuk Bego
Alena is a full-time health and wellness enthusiast, combining her two biggest passions – healthy living and writing. Based in Southeastern Europe, she holds a degree in English language and literature, and strongly believes that true beauty comes with a healthy body and restful mind.

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