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9 Signs You’re Under Too Much Stress


June 4, 2020 | Published by

Stress has a tendency to build up in several different ways. Sometimes it’s through major life events, such as losing a job or a loved one. Other times it can be smaller daily stresses, like traffic or toxic coworkers that push us to the breaking point.

That breaking point is where stress overload comes into the picture. These stresses make your stress response system, especially the adrenal glands, work harder to produce hormones that help your body cope with and adapt. When stress is frequent or chronic for extended periods of time, these sustained cortisol-initiated changes are no longer adaptive and start becoming harmful.

High blood sugar, insulin resistance, increased abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease, anxiety and mood disorders, cognitive and memory impairment, sleep problems and an inability to relax are just some of the consequences associated with chronic stress overload.1

Here are some warning signs you may be heading towards stress overdrive:

Skin problems

If you’ve ever felt like your skin isn’t at it’s best while you’re under additional stress, you’re not alone. There is a strong connection between stress and your skin’s health. This connection has only become stronger as science has shed new light onto how stress affects the body3.

Recent studies show that at least 30% of dermatology patients also have unaddressed underlying psychological issues which, if addressed, can have a profound impact in promoting healthier skin. Stress can also be responsible for affecting the aging process, acne breakouts, and can aggravate skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema.3,4


A scientific study showed that 45% of individuals suffering from chronic headaches reported the occurrence of a stressful event before the development of the headache. This number was even higher with members of the armed forces, who reported that 67% of their headaches were triggered by stress, making it the second most common trigger.2

Stress can also lead to changes in sleep habits, increased alcohol intake, and dehydration, all of which can cause headaches.

Chronic Pain

As stress becomes more frequent and long-term, it can affect our physical health. Stress can cause chronic pain in many areas of our body, including the lower back and stomach.6 One study comprised of teenagers with sickle cell disease found higher levels of stress were associated with a same-day increase in pain levels.2

Frequent Sickness

Emerging evidence is tracing the pathways of the mind-body interaction. For example, as seen with the college students, chronic feelings of loneliness can help to predict health status–perhaps because lonely people have more psychological stress or experience it more intensely. That stress in turn tamps down immunity.6

Research has shown us how stress management and interpersonal relationships can benefit daily health, from helping us combat the common cold to speeding healing after surgery. The research is in sync with anecdotal reports of how people get sick in stressful times, but understanding exactly how psychology affects biology helps scientists to recommend the best ways to can build up immunity.6

Decreased Energy and Insomnia

Prolonged stress can lead to decreased energy levels and chronic fatigue.3 When stress hits us, it’s often paired with energy robbers that exist to do just that: steal your energy. These robbers can be acrimonious relationships, stressful duties or tasks at your job, or even things in our environment, such as the foods we eat or exposure to certain chemicals.7

Decreased levels in energy can disrupt our circadian rhythm and lead to insomnia, which only further aggravates stress. To complicate matters, inadequate sleep can lead to even more stressors, like diminished immune functionality8, irritability, anxiety, and depression.9

Changes in Sex Drive

When stress triggers our fight or flight response, non-essential functions like our sex drive can be severely diminished. When we are suffering from chronic stress, our body produces an increased rate of cortisol, which in turn decreases interest in sex.10

Digestive Issues

The shift in our bodies caused by the fight or flight response can lead to a number of effects on our digestive system, including diminished nutrient absorption, damaged stomach and intestines, and increased harmful bacteria.11

Appetite Changes

While experiencing a lot of stress, many individuals notice considerable changes in their eating habits. For some this means overeating, while many others don’t feel like eating at all. Stress also causes our aldosterone levels to plummet, which leads to increased cravings for salty junk foods. These unhealthy foods can lead to more gut problems, as well as even more stress.12


While chronic stress elevates the amount of cortisol, it reduces serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. This includes dopamine, which has been linked with depression. The stress-depression link is often circular. “Stress, or being stressed out, leads to behaviors and patterns that in turn can lead to a chronic stress burden and increase the risk of major depression,” says Bruce McEwen, PhD, author of The End of Stress as We Know It.13


  1. What is Stress Overdrive?
  2. Link, R. 11 Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress. Healthline.
  3. Stress and Your Skin.
  4. The Mind-Skin Connection. WebMD.
  5. Is Stress Causing Your Body Aches and Pains?
  6. How Stress Weakens the Immune System.
  7. Feeling Drained? Get Rid of Those Energy Robbers.
  8. How Sleep Can Affect Your Immune System.
  9. Insomnia: Everything you need to know. Murrell, D. Medical News Today.
  10. Scott, E. How Stress Can Cause a Low Libido. Verywell Mind.
  11. Stress and Digestion Part 2-When Stress Takes Over.
  12. Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid for Adrenal Fatigue.
  13. Bruno, K. Stress and Depression.

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