Causes and Symptoms of Stress

Symptoms of stress go way beyond feelings of anxiety and frustration.

The effects of stress are varied and they can affect the way you feel in your body, the way you think and the way you act.  You just might be surprised to know that what is going on with you is as a result of stress.


Symptoms of Stress

sympstoms of stress; reflectiophoto courtesy of Katie Tegtmeyer, Flickr


Pay close attention to your body, your moods and your energy level. The quicker you make the connection with how you feel and how stress affects health, the faster you will be able to manage your stress level.

I should point out that the causes of stress affect people differently and the signs of stress are not isolated to stress but could also be as a result of other health issues.  So it is important that you consult with your doctor when experiencing any of the stress symptoms listed below.


Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Tension headaches
  • Frequent bouts of the common cold or flu
  • Sleep Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Back aches
  • Heart burn, Upset stomach
  • Shoulder or neck pain
  • Constipation, diarrhea


Emotional & Behavioral Issues

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Chest pain, Palpitations
  • Lack of concentration or memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Decreased desire for sex
  • Nervousness
  • Overeating or no appetite for food
  • Mood swings
  • Worry
  • Excessive drinking, smoking or drug use
  • Depression


Causes of Stress

There are many causes of stress and we are affected by it in many different ways, often times the symptoms of stress are quite surprising and may even be life threatening.  It is therefore important to know what the causes of stress are and how to properly manage stress.

Any time we are faced with any form of pressure or demand whether coming from something good, like a wedding or birth of a child or from something bad like the death of a loved one or a divorce, it triggers a chemical process in our bodies and stress hormones are released.  If these stress hormones remain at an elevated level without being released quickly enough from our bodies it can affect our mental and physical health negatively.

But all things are not equal.  People have different tolerance levels for stress.  What is interesting is that people can be affected by the same factors of stress and react to it in different ways.  What may cause one person to have a meltdown may cause another person to be motivated and filled with positive energy.

For example, Mary & Susan both have to make presentations at the next board meeting but Mary feels nervous and anxious about making the presentation while Susan is excited and looking forward to her chance to shine in front of the board directors. Both are faced with the same factors of stress but are affected by it differently.

Factors of stress may be due to personal issues, financial issues, work related problems or what’s going on in our environment.


Below is a list of a few of these stress factors. 

Personal Issues

  • Traumatic situations - natural disasters, violence
  • Illnesses or health issues
  • Coping with a death or divorce
  • Major changes - moving to a new neighborhood, a new addition to the family, a new job, new marriage
  • Relationship conflicts between family members or friends
  • Fatigue or sleep insomnia
  • Pregnancy
  • Emotional issues – pessimism, procrastination, depression, worry
  • Poor time management

Financial Issues

  • Growing Credit Card Debt
  • Foreclosed home
  • Outstanding Debt
  • Job Loss / Redundancy
  • Loss of Income

Work-related Problems

  • Pressures on the job
  • Job loss
  • Changed organizational structure - merger, acquisition, redundancies
  • Long work hours

Environmental Issues

  • Noise
  • Overcrowding
  • Pollution
  • Clutter or disorganized working or living space 

While the lists above are not exhaustive, they cover several common causes of stress and it is important to know what causes us to react the way we do under pressure or when adjusting to change so that we know how to properly cope with stress based on the stressful lives we lead.