Six Surprising Side Effects of Stress

Stress Leads to Colds

Health experts say that stress can come with some pretty surprising symptoms—from forgetfulness to nausea to skin rashes. Here are some of the most common side effects of stress:

  1. Raises Stroke Risk – If you’re stressed, you may have a higher risk of stroke than your more mellow peers, according to an observational study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
  2. Colds Made Worse – Research suggests that stress has a negative effect on your immune system; with a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences even showing it can make the symptoms of a common cold worse. When you’re stressed, you produce too much cortisol, a stress hormone that helps the body respond to inflammation. When this happens, the immune system becomes resistant, meaning your body can’t fight off viruses normally.
  3. Pinched Muscles - The pain in your neck that you attributed to long hours at the computer could actually be a symptom of stress. Stress affects the musculoskeletal system, resulting in tight, contracting muscles and/or spasms in muscles.
  4. Brain Shrinkage – Researchers reported in the journal, Biological Psychiatry, that stressful life events – like going through a divorce or being laid off – can actually shrink the brain by reducing gray matter in regions tied to emotion and physiological functions.
  5. Heart Attack – A study published by French researchers in the June 2013 issue of European Heart Journal, showed that people who believe that they are stressed—and that the stress is affecting their health—have more than twice the risk of heart attack as those who don’t feel that way.
  6. Nausea – Stress can upset the stomach, and nausea can be a byproduct of worry. In moments of stress, the body responds by releasing hormones, such as adrenaline, that trigger the fight-or-flight response. Alertness is heightened, respiration and heart rate increase, and muscles are primed for a physical response. These hormones flow through the whole body, and when they reach the digestive tract, the stomach responds by increasing acid production, causing feelings of nausea.