Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Stress Symptoms Image - Masterfile

Signs and symptoms of stress vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. Stress can cause physical, mental, and psychological signs and symptoms.

Symptoms of acute stress include the following:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Back pain
  • Digestive problems (e.g., heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain)
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Sadness
  • Sleep disorders (e.g., insomnia, excessive sleepiness)

Symptoms of episodic stress may include all of the above plus headache (e.g., tension headache, migraine), heart disease, and high blood pressure (hypertension).

If untreated, chronic stress can affect all aspects of daily life, and cause severe physical (e.g., heart attack, stroke) and mental (e.g., depression) effects.

It can lead to serious health complications, including the following:

  • Chest pain, irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Immune system suppression (increases the risk for illness)
  • Indigestion, heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain
  • Periodontal (tooth) disease, jaw pain
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Reproductive problems (e.g., irregular menstrual periods, chronic pelvic pain)
  • Weight gain or loss

Chronic stress can also increase the severity and frequency of headaches, including migraines; affect the length and severity of asthma attacks; and can affect blood sugar levels in patients who have diabetes. It is a major cause for missed days of work.

Publication Review By: Karen Larson, M.D.

Published: 07 Jan 2007

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015