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Do stress symptoms affect everyone the same way?

Stress affects everyone in different ways. This means that there are lots of potential symptoms.

You don’t have to experience every single one to be suffering from too much stress. Just one or two are enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis when testing for stress.

If you’re feeling stressed, or know you have a potentially stressful situation coming up, look out for any of these responses.

Behavioural symptoms

Stress can cause you to act in a way that you wouldn’t normally. It affects your emotional responses and is often more obvious to people around you. Someone who knows you very well may notice the change in your behaviour long before you do.

Behavioural symptoms to look out for include:

  • Constant bad mood or short temper
  • Bad habits, e.g. nail biting
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Taking up smoking, or smoking more than you usually would
  • Restlessness, difficulty relaxing or concentrating
  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Avoiding stressful situations, such as calling in sick to work
  • Unable to make decisions
  • Not seeing the humour in anything
  • Feeling low or depressed
  • A sense of dread

Psychological symptoms

As you’d expect, stress affects how you think. You may find it difficult to control your thoughts, or often find yourself worrying about the worst case scenario. Look out for symptoms such as:

  • Worrying all the time
  • Unfounded concerns about your health, work or personal life
  • Loneliness
  • Night terrors
  • acing thoughts you can’t switch off from

If left untreated, stress can lead to serious mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, so it’s important to speak to a doctor if you’re finding it hard to cope.

Physical symptoms

Like most mental health conditions, stress can cause a range of physical symptoms that affect your body. These can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Poor immune system (stressed people may be more likely to come down with a cold or other common virus)
  • Skin problems, e.g. acne
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues such as diarrhoea, constipation or indigestion
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Dizzy spells
  • Insomnia
  • Tiredness
  • Sweating
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hyperventilating
  • Hair loss

Stress can also increase your risk of heart disease, stroke or high blood pressure. This is one of many reasons why it’s important to get treatment as soon as you realise stress is having a negative impact on your day-to-day life.

Signs of stress in men

While most symptoms of stress can affect both men and women, some are specific to (or more common in) a particular gender.

Here are a few of the issues stress could cause for men:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low quality and quantity of sperm
  • While stress doesn’t cause prostate cancer, some studies suggest that it could speed up the progress of the disease once you’ve been diagnosed

As with many mental health issues, men may be hesitant about sharing their feelings with a doctor. This is often due to long-held stereotypes that men should be strong and untouchable.

However, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of stress, you should see a doctor for confidential advice as soon as possible.

Signs of stress in women

There are also some stress symptoms that are associated only with women. These include:

  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Low sex drive
  • Hair loss - while this can affect men too, it’s often a much more distressing experience for women

There are also a lot of myths around how stress can affect pregnancy, so it’s important to find correct information.

Stress affects everyone differently

As we’ve mentioned, different people deal with stress in different ways. In fact, something that causes one person a lot of stress might not be an issue at all for someone else.

How you perceive situations can have a big impact on how you deal with it. For example, imagine you have a big interview coming up for a promotion at work. If you’re confident you can do your job well, you’ll probably be more relaxed than if you worry you’re not doing enough in your job.

Low-self esteem, negative past experiences or your outlook on life can all have an impact on how you deal with stress.

What happens next?

Now that you’ve identified the symptoms that are contributing to your stress, and you’re finding it difficult to cope, it’s recommended that you see a doctor.

They’ll listen to you and get a good understanding of your situation. They’ll be able to provide an expert diagnosis that will take you a step closer to getting the correct treatment.