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Effects of Stress

Stress causes changes in your body. It also affects your emotions.

How stress affects the body

Common symptoms of stress include:

Over time, stress can affect your:1

An extreme reaction to stress is a panic attack. A panic attack is a sudden, intense fear or anxiety that may make you feel short of breath, dizzy, or make your heart pound. People who have panic attacks may feel out of control, like they are having a heart attack, or are about to die. Panic attacks may happen with no clear cause, but they can be brought on by living with high levels of stress for a long time. For more information on panic attacks, see the topic Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder.

How stress affects your thoughts and emotions

You might notice signs of stress in the way you think, act, and feel. You may:

  • Feel cranky and unable to deal with even small problems.
  • Feel frustrated, lose your temper more often, and yell at others for no reason.
  • Feel jumpy or tired all the time.
  • Find it hard to focus on tasks.
  • Worry too much about small things.
  • Feel that you are missing out on things because you can't act quickly.
  • Imagine that bad things are happening or about to happen.

How stress affects you depends on many things, such as:

  • Your personality.
  • What you have learned from your family about responding to stress.
  • How you think about and handle stress.
  • Your coping strategies(What is a PDF document?).
  • Your social support.

The type of stress matters

Stress can affect you both instantly (acute stress) and over time (chronic stress).

Acute (short-term) stress is the body's instant response to any situation that seems demanding or dangerous. Your stress level depends on how intense the stress is, how long it lasts, and how you cope with the situation.

Most of the time, your body recovers quickly from acute stress. But stress can cause problems if it happens too often or if your body doesn't have a chance to recover. In people with heart problems, acute stress can trigger an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) or even a heart attack.

Chronic (long-term) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time. This could include having a difficult job or dealing with a chronic disease. If you already have a health problem, stress can make it worse.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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