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6 Effects of Long-Term Stress on Your Body

upset-womanEveryone experiences stress at various points in life. In fact, having some stress is healthy for both your body and mind.

However, prolonged stress can be harmful to both your mental and physical health.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, stress can be both external (caused by pain, exposure to heat or cold, or the psychological environment) or internal (caused by illness, injury, or internal psychological factors).

The Two Types of Stress

There are two main types of stress: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is generally caused by an immediately perceived threat such as danger, infection, isolation, crowding, or noise. In general, this type of stress is short-lived, and stress hormones return to normal once the perceived threat has passed.

However, in today’s world, we are often exposed to chronic stress, which is more ongoing. This may be caused by pressure at work, prolonged loneliness, long-term relationship problems or persistent financial worries.

Stress and Your Health

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress poses a number of health risks. Not only can this cause severe emotional turmoil that may manifest as anxiety or insomnia, it has also been shown to be connected to a number of physical ailments, including:

•    Muscle pain
•    Higher blood pressure
•    Insomnia
•    Weakening of the immune system
•    Obesity
•    Heart disease

In addition to these physical responses, chronic stress has been shown to increase the likelihood of addiction.
Managing Chronic Stress

According to Ohio State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Emily K. Porensky, PhD., there are several strategies that can help when you are exposed to chronic stress:

•   Cognitive behavioral therapy can ease even physical symptoms such as chronic muscle pain, eating disorders, and insomnia

•   Problem-focused coping strategies such as time-management, assertive communication, and problem-solving work when the situation is something that can be solved by making life-changes, etc. However, when problem-focused coping fails, you may need to fall back on emotion-focused strategies such as progressive muscle relaxation exercises, distraction (with a hobby, etc), and deep breathing.

Learning to manage chronic stress is an essential life skill in today’s world. If you find that you are exposed to high levels of stress on a daily basis, it may be best to consult a mental health professional. They can help you learn essential coping strategies that may prevent a physical ailment before it even begins, or alleviate symptoms that you are already experiencing.

6 Effects of Long-Term Stress on Your Body

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). 6 Effects of Long-Term Stress on Your Body. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Apr 2015
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