Physical complaints stress

Reviewed by our psychologist : Carlos Hoogenboom

Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and dizziness: Stress doesn’t just have an impact on how your mind works, it also affects the way your body functions. The physical symptoms associated with stress are often easy to spot, but it isn’t always clear that they are caused by stress. Which symptoms is it a good idea to look out for if you’re experiencing a lot of stress? Read on to find out more.

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What stress does to your body

About hormones and danger

Stress occurs when your brain evaluates a situation and decides you need to take quick, focused action to stop something bad from happening. Your brain then releases hormones, such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which put you into fight, flight or freeze mode. In this mode, you’re sharp, you respond quickly, and you feel very active. You’ll notice that in your mind, but also your body: Your breathing gets faster, your heart rate rises, and you might begin to sweat. Your body is ready to take action.

Taking action when stressed

Your body being in a position to take action is very useful when you’re in a dangerous traffic situation, for example. Or if you’re about to give a very important presentation. But sometimes your brain thinks you need to be ready for action when that’s actually not the case. Maybe you’ve experienced something unpleasant that keeps plaguing your mind. Or maybe you’ve got a job and you want to perform as well as possible. Your brain continues to produce these stress hormones and your body remains in fight, flight or freeze mode. At this point, we’re talking about chronic stress and a chronic hormonal imbalance. Your heartbeat isn’t slowing down, your breath isn’t returning to normal, and your body can’t relax. This can lead to some unpleasant physical symptoms. It interferes with your ability to live a nice, relaxing life and isn’t healthy in the long term.

Identifying the physical symptoms

Hair loss, tinnitus, rashes, painful arms and legs: There are lots of symptoms related to stress that you may not immediately recognize. But it is important to know and recognize how your body reacts to too much stress. This means you’ll be less likely to carry on pushing through stress, damaging your immune system and hippocampus (one of the parts of your brain that controls your emotions and memory). You’ll also avoid being treated for conditions that appear to have a physical cause – such as back pain or tinnitus – but are actually caused by stress. Here is a list of the most common physical symptoms of stress:

  • Headaches
  • Neck and back pain, or stiffness when standing up
  • Hyperventilation
  • Insomnia
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Blurred vision and double vision
  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Dizziness
  • Susceptibility to disease and infection
  • Sweating and shaking


Negative spiral

Do you have bowel problems or swollen lymph nodes caused by too much stress? Or do these symptoms and the feeling of tension in your body cause you to worry a lot, sleep poorly, and feel afraid that things won’t go back to normal. Is this then causing you to experience even more stress and even more physical symptoms?

Stress can slowly lure you into a negative spiral where it’s no longer easy to judge what is the cause and what is the effect. A conversation with a psychologist can help you to gain some perspective. Together with a psychologist, you’ll discuss which things in your life are causing you stress and if this is connected to the physical symptoms you’re experiencing. A psychologist can also give you some tips for thinking about certain situations in a different way and incorporating more rest into your life. As a result, your brain will be less likely to switch into stress mode, which allows your body to rest. Finally, a psychologist will help you to figure out which physical symptoms of stress you personally experience, which means that next time you’ll be able to recognize more quickly when it’s time to slow down and take care of yourself.

Getting help from a professional

Are you suffering from physical symptoms related to stress? And are you finding it difficult to get your stress under control? Then read our tips for how to better manage symptoms of stress. Do you need more support? Why not make an appointment with one of our psychologists? They offer various treatment methods that will teach you how to handle stressful situations, offering you tools to manage your stress.

Do you have any questions about stress and how to treat it? Then call us on 0851308900.

GZ-Psychologist : Carlos Hoogenboom

“Stressful situations make you more susceptible to health problems“

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