The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress
High Blood Pressure
Known as hypertension, this is a very common chronic disease which usually has no obvious symptoms. But it raises your risk of stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack.
Stress increases blood pressure in the short term, so chronic stress may contribute to a permanently raised blood pressure. If you have a family history of hypertension and heart problems, make sure you have regular checkups with your doctor, and try to follow his advice.
Susceptibility to Infection
There is no doubt that under stress the immune system is suppressed, making you more vulnerable to infections. Allergies and autoimmune diseases (including arthritis and multiple sclerosis) may be exacerbated by stress. This effect can be partly offset by social support from friends and family. Being stressed also slows the rate at which you recover from any illnesses you already have.
Stress is known to aggravate skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. It also has been linked to unexplained itchy skin rashes. These skin problems are themselves intensely stressful.
Continued stimulation of muscles through prolonged stress can lead to muscular pain such as backache. Together with our sedentary lifestyles and bad posture, this makes back, shoulder and neck ache extremely widespread.
Stress also is thought to aggravate underlying painful conditions such as herniated discs, fibromyalgia and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Furthermore, most migraine sufferers say that stress contributes to their headaches, which can last for days.
There is some evidence that chronic stress may lead to insulin-dependent diabetes in people who are predisposed to the disease. It could be that stress causes the immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells.
Stress does not normally cause infertility, but the two have been linked many times. People who are trying for a baby are more likely to conceive when on holiday or when facing little stress, and fertility treatment is more successful at these times too.
Carlson N. R. (2004). Physiology of behavior, 8th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Collingwood, J. (2013). The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 2, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-physical-effects-of-long-term-stress/000935