How Chronic Stress Leads to Disease and Other Permanent Life Changes

When the body and mind are placed under great strain for a long period of time with no relief, the homeostatic mechanism — ability for the body to maintain a normal state — no longer operates smoothly. With no relief, there is no opportunity for the body to return to a healthy balance. This can lead to building stress-induced disease and permanent life changes for the worse. 

Stress can be directly linked to illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers, coronary heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and a range of psychiatric disorders. Stress has also been implicated in more common conditions such as headaches, colds/flu, diarrhea or constipation. 

It’s important to notice the signals our bodies give us that they are unwell. Anxiety and depression in our emotional life are equivalent to pain in our physical life. Anxiety, depression, pain, and illness are warning signs that something is wrong and needs to be attended to. If ignored, these warnings can turn into permanent damage in the body where they may be improved, but likely can’t be repaired back to normal state.

Chronic stress is a big deal.

Blood glucose reader.

A physical condition like dysglycemia – blood sugar highs and crashes – leads into pre-diabetes, then diabetes, which leads to a whole host of other issues which may include loss of eyesight, loss of limbs by amputation, or heart disease. Becoming aware of your symptoms when it’s dysglycemia can be more easily dealt with through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Overcoming pre-diabetes requires a bit more effort. Overcoming diabetes requires a lot of effort and extensive restrictions on diet and usually includes forms of medication as the body can no longer handle the load of glucose in the blood on its own. This can eventually lead to having to give oneself injections of insulin. If not managed properly, these symptoms can lead to even more extensive issues around heart disease, etc. Several physical changes happen in the body at each stage as the disease builds. Symptoms are much more easily dealt with, and damage repaired if attention is given early, and diet and lifestyle changes are made.

Emotional and mental symptoms can eventually lead to damaging emotional effects and permanent changes to personality from repetitions of reactions creating conditioned reactions. A person may feel anxiety or depression in certain situations or may develop an attitude of indifference. Indifference can mean “I don’t care” and/or “I give up.” Anxiety and depression affect sleep quality. Mental fatigue results from all the above and then leads to issues with concentration, rigid thinking, inability to think logically. Then excessive irritability shows itself as anger and states of sensitivity and defensiveness. Then there’s panic and loss of self-control with emotional outbursts. Reactions become habitual and become part of the personality making it difficult to return to a state of being more in control with the ability to use logic.

Slot machines.

Stress can cause behavioural changes. Stress causes feelings of being out of control. One may avoid work or friends/family, not take responsibility for their actions, go to extremes in spending/ gambling/ smoking/drinking, drive aggressively, have poor personal hygiene, exhibit carelessness, use fast/incoherent speech, develop work absenteeism and/or low productivity. All of these behaviours, if not corrected early, can lead to life changing events such as job loss, addictions, accidents, and disconnection from loved ones.

Being on top of stress early is essential to prevent permanent negative changes physically, mentally/emotionally, or behaviourally.

For more information visit my blog posts on Assessing Your Stress and Coping with Stress.

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