When the body becomes stressed it negatively affects several parts of the body. How negative will depend on the person, but it will also depend on how long the person has been stressed. When stress occurs the body will react in various ways to protect itself. When this stress is acute (short term), such as meeting a deadline or when we are late to an appointment because we are stuck in traffic, the body will relax soon after the stress passes.
Unfortunately, for many of us life sends problems our way that causes the stress to stay for days, weeks or even months at a time. This type of stress is called chronic (long term) stress. Examples of this type of stress are abusive relationships, dealing with a family member who suffers from drug addiction or financial worries. This type of stress can really hurt the body in many different ways.
Below is a list of the parts of the body and how they are affected by stress.
When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. It’s our body’s way of guarding against injury and pain. When we face sudden stress (acute), the muscles tense up all at once. This tension is released when the stress passes.
When muscles are tense for long periods of time, the tension does not release. This can lead to tension and migraine headaches.
When the body is stressed, the nervous system generates what is known as the “fight or flight” response. The body shifts all of its energy resources toward either fighting off or running away from a life-threating situation. When this happens, the nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenalin and cortisol.
During this process the heart begins to beat faster, blood pressure is raised, and glucose levels are boosted in the bloodstream.
When a person is dealing with chronic stress, a host of physical responses are caused. The adrenal glands can become exhausted and the body will begin to store the unused glucose (sugar) as belly fat.
Stress causes heavy breathing. For some people this will mean panic and asthma attacks.
During episodes of stress, the heart dilates and begins to beats faster. Blood vessels begin to dilate. Long term, this can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries which could lead to heart attack.
When the body is stressed, adrenal glands produce cortisol and epinephrine. The release of these two chemical triggers the liver to produce more glucose. If you don’t use this glucose, it gets reabsorbed into the body. Long term, this extra sugar can cause Type 2 diabetes.
Stress can caused increased heartburn pain. It also causes the brain to become more alert to sensations in the stomach. This can cause indigestion.
Stress can also affects digestion. This means it can either slow down or speed up how fast food moves through your body, resulting in diarrhea or constipation.
Stress affects the reproductive system in many ways. It can cause a reduction is sexual desire. Specifically in men, chronic stress can affect testosterone and sperm production, and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. In women, stress can cause absent or irregular menstrual cycle, painful periods and changes in the length of the cycle. It can also worsen PMS and Menopausal symptoms.