Can Emotional Stress and Anxiety Cause Illnesses?

Stress is a normal part of life, creeping in when burdened with work, financial issues, or familial problems. These types of stress are usually short-termed issues, though chronic stress and crying can become a bigger problem. Higher levels of long-term emotional stress and anxiety can eventually cause to temporary or chronic illnesses. The longer it takes to alleviate emotional stress, the more serious those medical conditions can become.

To reduce anxiety, emotional support from a trained therapist is essential. Your anxiety may be a sign of a neurological disorder, in which case you may need the right treatment.

Exercise, healthy eating, limited alcohol, and proper sleep are also ways to help manage emotional stress. For more information on how emotional stress can affect you, check out the following sections.

Nurse hugging elderly woman and providing emotional support to avoid emotional stress and anxiety to cause illness.

Illnesses Caused by Stress and Anxiety

Stress doesn’t just make some conditions worse, it can also increase the risk of certain health conditions. Depression and anxiety are common in those with chronic stress. The higher the stress level and the longer it lasts, the worse these conditions become.

High blood pressure and heart issues –  heart conditions have suspected links to emotional stress. The cause of such illnesses includes higher heart rates and blood flow, which triggers the release of triglycerides and cholesterol. Sudden bouts of emotional stress can even cause heart attacks or other cardiac episodes.

Narrowed arteries – Be aware that stress causes blood vessels to narrow.

Compromised immune system and common colds– Did you ever see someone having a cold after experiencing stress? This is very common in children, adults, and elderly people.

High stress levels are also known to lower your immune system, which reduces your body’s ability to fight off infection. As well as mild issues like the common cold, severe conditions like cancer are triggered or worsened by stress. Autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, or psoriasis, can be exacerbated by stress as well.

Obesity also results from emotional stress due to raised cortisol levels in the body. Higher cortisol levels increase fatty deposits around the abdomen. Stressed individuals also don’t have the motivation or energy to exercise, increasing the risks of obesity.

Other health conditions – Conditions linked to stress include headaches, migraines, insomnia, and accelerated aging. Though emotional stress doesn’t cause illnesses like asthma, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, or Alzheimer’s, it increases the severity of these issues. It can even cause premature death in those dealing with chronic emotional stress.

Symptoms of stress and anxiety

If you’re concerned about emotional stress, anxiety, and the illnesses it could cause, there are several symptoms to watch for. Stress doesn’t just affect your body, either. It also affects your mood and behavior, so keep an eye out for these signs.

The most common effects on your body include headache, muscle tension, pain, and fatigue. You may also notice chest pains or an upset stomach. Difficulty sleeping or changes in your sex drive could also result from emotional stress.

Mood can be affected in a few ways, including irritability, anger, sadness, depression, or anxiety. Some individuals may experience a lack of focus or motivation or helpless or overwhelmed feelings. If you notice these symptoms of emotional stress and anxiety, speak to someone to help prevent more serious illnesses.

Eating too much or too little are common behavioral changes linked to emotional stress. Misusing alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, angry outbursts, social withdrawal, and reduced physical activity are also symptoms to watch for.

This article contains informational and educational materials and does not replace health or medical advice. For questions or concerns regarding your medical condition or health objectives, speak to a qualified physician or healthcare provider.