High Stress: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, and Treatment

Everybody experiences stress from time to time, and it can be the result of good or bad stressors. But chronic stress can be dangerous without treatment. Read this to learn about some of the causes of high stress and ways to prevent or treat it.

9 minute read

Last Updated July 30, 2020

High Stress: Symptoms, Causes, Complications, and Treatment

High stress levels or anxiety can be experienced from time to time. Our bodies experience stress as a result of nervousness, a specific event, or being under pressure. Stress in the short term is not bad, but long term or chronic stress (anxiety) can be dangerous to your physical and mental health. 

When stress becomes more than worries about paying bills and begins to interfere with your life, it becomes a more serious issue. When stress levels get too high and are continuous, it is time to seek help.

Symptoms of High Stress

High stress levels can cause physical and psychological symptoms, and it’s important to note that everyone develops different symptoms. In general, the common symptoms of anxiety or high stress include:

♦ Headaches
♦ Stomachache
♦ Rapid breathing
Sweating
♦ Dizziness
♦ Muscle tension
♦ Change in appetite
Frequent urination
♦ Trouble sleeping
♦ Diarrhea
♦ Fast heartbeat
♦ Panic and nervousness
♦ Difficulty concentrating
♦ Fear and feelings of impending doom

Causes of High Stress

High stress level can come and go for most people. It becomes a problem when you remain in a high-stressed state for prolonged periods of time. Prolonged periods of stress elevates cortisol levels, and this hormone can cause increases in blood pressure and cholesterol, putting the health of your heart in danger. 

Common causes of high stress include lifestyle changes like moving, loss of a job, having a baby, illness, or injury and medications such as thyroid medications, diet pills, and asthma inhalers. 

There are also several health conditions associated with high stress and anxiety. If any of these conditions are the cause of your elevated stress levels, treatment can help to remedy the situation and help you lower stress levels so you can function in life.

GAD: Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a disorder where an individual worries about general things constantly. Money, health, and life events all cause excessive worry without any real reason. People with GAD always expect the worst, and as a result, is always experiencing high stress levels.

Panic disorder: Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where you experience sudden feelings of terror when there is no real threat or danger. As a result, your body automatically releases a stress response and remains on high alert.

Social phobia: Social phobia is a condition where there is an intense fear of being watched and judged by others. When in situations that trigger this fear, individuals will experience high stress and uncomfortable physical sensations like sweating and heart palpitations.

OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a chronic and long-term condition characterized by uncontrollable-recurring thoughts and behaviors. Individuals feel an urge to repeat these behaviors and thoughts, and they experience high stress when triggers are present or when they cannot perform the actions.

Hypopituitarism: When there is reduced production and release of pituitary hormones, this condition develops. The lack of these hormones affects the stress response and how effectively you can cope with stressful triggers.

Adenomas: An adenoma is a benign tumor that forms on your glands within the epithelial tissue. If an adenoma develops on your pituitary gland, you can develop hypopituitarism which affects your ability to effectively manage stress.

Adrenal gland tumors: These can be benign or malignant and cause dangerous and uncomfortable symptoms. They regulate the release of hormones into the bloodstream, and when hormone levels are altered, your ability to manage stress can be impaired.

♦ Chronic illness: Chronic illness is a common result of ongoing high stress. Chronic high stress weakens your immune system leaving you at greater risk for infection and disease. Without treatment, high stress can increase your risk of chronic illness. 

Complications of High Stress

High stress does a great deal of physical and mental damage if left untreated. The excessive release of stress hormones and the tension and inflammation through your body can damage tissues and organ function. 

Some of the serious complications of untreated high stress include:

♦ Chronic headaches
♦ Impaired memory and concentration
♦ Hypertension (high blood pressure)
♦ Increased risk of heart disease
♦ Elevated blood sugar levels and increased risk for diabetes
♦ Increased risk for certain cancer
♦ Mental health diseases such as anxiety or depression
♦ GERD and other digestive issues
♦ An impaired respiratory system as a result of chronic rapid and shallow breathing
♦ Fertility problems and reduced sex drive
Chronic fatigue and muscle aches

Treatment for High Stress

There are some cases where you can treat high stress at home without medical intervention, but this typically only works for temporary bouts of high stress. Techniques to help you cope with short-term anxiety and high stress include:

♦ Stress management by limiting potential triggers

♦ Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga

♦ Getting regular exercise, which reduces inflammation and helps you to release stress from the day

♦ Eating a balanced diet full of antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage associated with high stress

♦ A lack of sleep is also proven to increase the production of stress hormones, so getting restful sleep so your body can recharge is essential. 

♦ Limiting caffeine and alcohol, which can exacerbate symptoms of stress and anxiety

♦ Making time for hobbies, and allowing time to enjoy and relax

♦ Having a support network to talk about stressful events

For chronic high stress, more intense treatment is needed, such as counseling and medications. Counseling can help with psychological causes of high stress and anxiety by helping the person to identify what is triggering the stress. In doing so, they can change the patterns of behavior and thoughts that cause stress. 

Medications like antidepressants and benzodiazepines can also help to reduce stress at a chemical level in the brain. By changing the neurotransmitter levels in the brain, symptoms of high stress can be reduced.

Natural Treatment for High Stress

One of the most dangerous factors linked to high stress is inflammation. Elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause widespread inflammation through the body. This, in combination with elevated blood pressure, can be a serious risk for heart disease as well as other chronic illnesses. 

In addition to promoting relaxation in your life, you can benefit from natural ingredients to help reduce inflammation.

♦ Berberine is a bioactive compound extracted from a group of plants called Berberis, and it has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, berberine can reduce cholesterol levels to further promote a healthier heart. 
Niacin, or vitamin B3, is one of the most valuable nutrients for human health and possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that reduce the risk of heart disease. 
Red yeast rice is fermented rice that can reduce inflammation when taken regularly over a period of time. When taking red yeast rice supplements, inflammatory markers and oxidative damage were reduced by up to 20 percent. 

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle all impact the development of high stress and anxiety. Typically those with an anxiety disorder have a genetic predisposition towards them or have experienced a traumatic event. There are also medical conditions that can cause high stress levels.

Whatever the cause, treatment is required to lower stress levels and allow you to function in life. Stress is a natural response of the body to prepare us for fight or flight, but when it becomes chronic, it becomes a health problem. Without treatment, your physical and mental well-being are in jeopardy.

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