symptoms of stress on body

Significant Body reactions when you are stressed, symptoms of stress on human body

An important part of managing your stress knows what your stress looks like. Your stress responses can take different forms: bodily changes, emotional changes, and behavioral changes. Although they look very different, they are all possible responses you may have when confronted with a stressful situation.


When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, your physiological system goes into high gear. Often your body tells you first that you’re experiencing stress. You may notice that you’re breathing more quickly than you normally do and that your hands feel cool and more than a little moist. But that’s just for starters.

If you could see what’s happening below the surface, you’d also notice some other changes. Your sympathetic nervous system, one of the two branches of your autonomic nervous system, is producing changes in your body.


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Your hypothalamus, a small portion of your brain located above the brain stem, stimulates your pituitary, a small gland near the base of your brain. It releases a hormone into the bloodstream called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). When that hormone reaches your adrenal glands, they in turn produce extra adrenalin (also known as epinephrine) along with other hormones called glucocorticoids. (Cortisol is one.)

  • This biochemical domino effect causes an array of other remarkable changes in your body. This diagram helps you see what’s going on.
  • More specifically, here are some highlights:
  • Your heart rate speeds up, and your blood pressure rises. (More blood is pumped to your muscles and lungs.)
  • You breathe more rapidly, and your nostrils flare, causing an increased supply of air.
  • Your digestion slows. (Who’s got time to eat?)
  • Your blood is directed away from your skin and internal organs and shunted to your brain and skeletal muscles. Your muscles tense. You feel stronger. You are ready for action.
  • Your blood clots more quickly, ready to repair any damage to your arteries.
  • Your pupils dilate, so you see better.
  • Your liver converts glycogen into glucose, which teams up with free fatty acids to supply you with fuel and some quick energy. 

In short, when you’re experiencing stress, your entire body undergoes a dramatic series of physiological changes that readies you for a life-threatening emergency. Clearly, stress has adaptive survival potential. Stress, way back when, was nature’s way of keeping you alive.


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