What Are The Long Term Effects Of Stress? (17 Symptoms to Know)

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Pretty much everyone in the world is going to be forced to deal with stress at some point or another. This is entirely normal. Nevertheless, you need to understand that long-term stress can become very problematic.

If you don’t learn how to cope with your stress, there’s a good chance it’s going to become overwhelming at some point in the future and cause a range of health problems. So just how bad can it get?

Here are some of the most common, and harmful, long-term effects of stress:

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1. Depression

Too much stress is eventually going to get you down in the dumps. If you’re not able to overcome your stressors, they’re going to compound and eventually lead to depression.

Depression is a very serious condition and it can cause chronic fatigue, isolation and even suicidal thoughts. With that being said, learning to overcome your depression is key.

2. Immune Deficiencies

It is also vital to understand that long-term stress is eventually going to lead to immune deficiencies. This is far more important than you could ever imagine, because your immune system is your first line of defense against disease and illness.

When your body wears down, your immune system will be depleted. In return, it is much more likely that you’re going to contract a serious illness or disease. And once you’re sick, it’s more difficult for your body to recover.

You might notice symptoms like stress hives, frequent colds or other signs that your immune system is compromised. Keep your eye out for all these signs, and visit the doctor if it becomes overwhelming.

3. Lack Of Sleep

Stress is also going to cause you to have a difficult time sleeping. Sleep is absolutely pertinent to your health.

If you’re not getting a sufficient amount of sleep, you’re going to experience tons of problems.

For instance, you’re going to be groggy in the morning. In the afternoon you’re likely to feel extremely tired and worn out, despite only being up for half the day. Not to mention you’ll physically feel weaker, be less alert and feel lethargic.

Remember, sleep is the time when your body recharges. If stress is disrupting that process, you’ll never be able to function at your maximum levels. Try these seven tips to sleep when you’re stressed out.

4. Anger

As you’re probably well aware, stress can cause you to become easily irritated and agitated. If you do not deal with your stress, the problem is going to compound and get worse and worse.

Eventually, this will lead to intense anger.

If you do not know how to handle that anger, you are eventually going to lash out at your friends and relatives. When that happens, there is a good chance that you’re going to ruin some of your most precious relationships.

Anger is definitely one of the biggest long-term effects of stress. One of the best ways to combat this is to become aware of your mood and how you react to people.

Do you notice you’ve been snappy towards certain people? Or maybe you’ve been rude for no apparent reason. If that’s out of your character, it’s a sign that you could be taking your stress out on everyone around you, and you need to get it under control.

5. Aging Rapidly

One of the more visual effects of long-term stress is it can cause you to age very rapidly. Stress doesn’t just age you cosmetically, but it makes you feel older as well.

If you don’t learn to manage your stress, you’re going to end up looking and feeling like you’re 70 when you’re really 30 or 40. Stress can cause you to develop wrinkles, bags under your eyes, hair loss and so much more. Get this problem under control before it is too late.

6. Weight Loss

A lot of people associate stress with weight gain, because it’s common to go on an emotional eating binge to cope with stress. However, stress weight loss is actually very common, particularly when as a result of long-term chronic stress.

Often times you’ll either lose your appetite or even flat-out forget to eat because of all the stress you’re under.

Weight loss might sound good if you’re trying to lose a few pounds, but stress weight loss is an entirely different story. The weight you’re losing isn’t just unhealthy fat. You’re also losing muscle and becoming deficient in the necessary nutrients your body needs to properly function.

In other words, it causes you to look and feel unhealthy.

7. Drink Excessively

There are tons of people all around the world who deal with stress in unhealthy ways. One of the most common of which is drinking alcohol excessively. If you happen to fit into this category, you need to understand that alcohol is unhealthy.

If you drink too much, it’s going to impact you negatively in terms of mental and physical health. Drinking too much can even become fatal if you’re not careful.

8. Isolation

Many people actually isolate themselves when they become overwhelmed with stress. This might not seem like a big deal in the beginning, but it can be a major problem.

Isolation has been shown to have a significantly negative effect on your mental health. That’s why it’s used as a form of punishment in prisons.

We are social beings and are meant to be around other people. Cutting yourself off from the outside world will only make your stress worse and likely lead to depression.

When you’re dealing with serious long-term stress, try calling up a friend. Even if it’s someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. You don’t have to go into the details of your stressors, but even light small talk or going out for coffee can significantly improve your mood.

9. Headaches

Pretty much everyone is going to suffer from headaches at some point or another. Just remember that some headaches are natural. Others are actually caused by external factors such as stress.

If you’re dealing with stress, there is a pretty good chance that you’re also going to be suffering from more frequent headaches. One of the worst parts about stress headaches is they can eventually transform into migraines. Migraines will turn your life upside down and decrease your quality of life significantly.

If you notice you’re getting chronic headaches or migraines, make a visit to the doctor for a checkup.

10. Decreased Libido

If you’ve been dealing with long-term stress, you may have noticed that your sex drive isn’t quite as strong as it used to be. And if your partner doesn’t seem to want to be as intimate as they usually are, stress could be the culprit.

Long-term stress has been shown to have a major negative effect on your libido, or sex drive. Women might even notice changes in their menstrual cycle as well. Oddly enough, having sex can actually relieve stress, so it’s kind of a catch-22.

While you’re in the process of working out your stressors, the most important thing is to have a supportive partner, or support your partner when they’re stressed out. Realize that it’s not an issue with either of your desire for the other person. It’s simply a side effect of the long term-stress you’re dealing with.

11. Anxiety

Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand.  In many cases, anxiety causes your stress to become even worse because you feel anxious and on-edge all the time.

If left ignored, anxiety can start to impact pretty much every aspect of your life from work to relationships and family. Luckily, there are plenty of natural ways to deal with anxiety like meditation, yoga and even counseling.

12. Heart Palpitations

Stress can also cause your heart to flutter. This is far more dangerous than you could ever imagine. If your heart is beating too fast or skipping a beat, there are plenty of things that could go wrong.

Stress can greatly increase your risks of suffering from a heart attack at some point in the future. Learning how to manage your stress is pertinent for keeping your heart happy and healthy.

If you ever notice your heart beats oddly or flutters when you’re stressed out, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

13. Chronic Fatigue

Do you notice that you feel more tired than usual when you’re stressed? Well, it’s because stress leads to fatigue. Like we mentioned earlier, one of the effects of long-term stress is a lack of sleep, which means you’re always tired when you’re awake.

Many people suffer from fatigue, but chronic fatigue is far worse than you could ever imagine. If you’re feeling lazy and lethargic all day and every day, there is a good chance that you’re going to have a hard time making through the day or making progress in your life.

It’s hard to give your all at school, work or at home when you’re running on an empty tank.

14. Overeating

While it is possible for stress to cause undereating, it can have the opposite effect on some people. There are many people who are going to suffer from overeating. This is equally as bad as not eating enough.

If you’re overeating, there is a possibility that you’re going to become obese which leads to a host of other health problems like diabetes, heart disease and others. These are lifelong problems that will turn your life upside down. If you do not want to take medication for the rest of your life, you need to get this problem under control immediately!

15. Drug Abuse

Some people turn to alcohol when they’re stressed. Others resort to hardcore drugs such as heroin and opioids. This is equally bad, if not worse.

When you’ve become addicted to a serious drug, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re in for a horrible ride. At best, you’ll eventually get off the drugs and have to deal with withdrawal which is far from pleasant. At worse, you may wind up suffering from an overdose at some point in the future.

Instead of turning to drugs to cope with stress, try a healthy alternative from this list.

16. Suicidal Thoughts

Many people suffering from stress do not know how to deal with it. This causes them to lash out in a negative manner. Some people take it out on others, but others will take it out on themselves. If you fit into this category, your stress may eventually cause you to feel suicidal.

This is downright dangerous and something that needs to be rectified immediately. Otherwise, your life might be cut drastically short. If you’re feeling these types of thoughts, seek help from a professional as soon as possible.

17. Memory Loss

Last but not least, long-term stress is going to have a negative impact on your memory. It could be something as small as misplacing your keys or something as big as forgetting to pick your kids up from school.

In order to combat the effects of memory loss, try eating foods that improve brain health like avocados, blueberries or broccoli. There are also supplements on the market to help with memory loss as well.

Suffice to say, learning how to cope with that stress is vital for ensuring that you have a happy and healthy life ahead of you.

Long-Term Effects of Stress Don’t Have to be Permanent

While this list might seem long, don’t be alarmed. You need to be aware of all the symptoms, but also know you can reverse them by learning to manage your stress.

Whether you’re stressed about money, school or major life changes like a baby, keep in mind that you will overcome your current situation. Check out some of our articles about stress relief and slowly make changes in your life. Everything will get better in due time.

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Additional Resources

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About the author

I'm an avid reader and love anything to do with mindfulness and mental health!

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