Many people think that stress is harmless but this really isn’t true.
According to researchers, it can have severe effects on a person’s mental health. People who are dealing with unusually high levels of stress may experience various mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. But how do you know if you’re stressed?
While this may seem obvious to most people it’s not always simple. While you may not feel as if you have stress in your life, many people are completely unaware that they are stressed out.
In this case, you should look out for the key signs of stress affecting mental health.
What Are the Key Signs of Stress Affecting Mental Health?
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1. Can’t Sleep or Sleep Too Much
This is a major sign of stress affecting mental health. People who suffer from stress often find it impossible to get to sleep.
Instead of easily falling asleep you lie there with your mind racing. It may take you hours to fall asleep because of negative thoughts. On the other hand, you could find it easy to fall asleep but struggle to stay asleep.
Some people have the opposite problem. Instead of experiencing insomnia, they oversleep. Whatever symptom you’re experiencing, the answer to this problem may be stress.
Also, if you’re suffering from stress there’s a good chance you may be having nightmares or strange dreams, so watch out for that.
2. Eating Less or Overeating
Are you inexplicably gaining weight?
The reason could be stress. Many people deal with their issues by using food. You may find that you’re overeating on a regular basis, or have a compulsive desire to eat. This is often referred to as, “eating your feelings” and can lead to rapid weight gain.
Other people with stress issues may do the opposite, which is that they stop eating entirely. You may lose your appetite completely.
Some people will find they are too busy and don’t have time to eat. The bottom line is that higher-than-average levels of stress can affect your relationship with food.
3. Feeling Negative Emotions Such As Sadness
Are you feeling sad for no discernable reason?
This symptom of stress may occur even if everything in your life seems to be going right. Along with feeling sad, you could experience other negative symptoms such as loneliness, feelings of dread, general unhappiness, hopelessness, irritation, anxiety, or depression.
In a worst-case scenario, you may also experience something known as suicidal ideation (this basically means you’re thinking about or planning suicide). No matter what type of negative emotions you’re feeling the culprit could be stress.
4. Physical Symptoms
One of the biggest reasons why you should take stress seriously is because it can have a detrimental effect on your physical health.
This has been confirmed by researchers. People who are stressed out may experience physical symptoms such as mystery aches and pains, sore muscles, tension in your body, clenched jaw and grinding teeth.
You may also have a feeling of dizziness or as if you’re, “not really there”. Stress can also lead to more serious problems such as heart attacks, strokes, sexual dysfunction, diabetes, hair loss, premature ageing, and asthma.
5. Difficulties With Memory and Concentration
Are you struggling to concentrate or remember things?
People who are dealing with stress may have a difficult time remembering important details or focusing on even the simplest tasks. This happens because your mind is basically burning out.
The emotional strain of the stress is affecting your cognitive functions and this leads to memory issues. High levels of stress also trigger the release of various types of hormones, and these can affect your memory.
6. Compulsive and Addictive Behaviours
Stress can have a marked effect on people who suffer from addictive behaviours. You may find that stress accelerates your addictions.
For example, many people with stress problems find themselves completely unable to control their drug or alcohol intake says Eric B. – Founder of Anchored Recovery, a drug/alcohol detox in Orange County, California.
Also, if you’ve recovered from these issues, you could find yourself relapsing in a major way. This is the reason why stress is so dangerous to people with addiction problems.
You may also find yourself indulging in other compulsive behaviours. Whether this is spending too much money, shopping, smoking, overeating, using pornography, engaging in high-risk sexual behaviour, or even something as simple as procrastinating.
7. Increase In Mental Health Symptoms
People who already suffer from mental health issues may find that their condition is worsening.
For example, if you have problems with depression or anxiety these conditions may greatly increase. This applies to anything which can be considered a symptom of mental illness. You may become more impulsive, or suffer problems with depersonalization, or derealisation.
Stress may also make you feel completely out of touch with reality. What’s more, in times of extreme stress you may even experience a psychotic episode.
Another good example of this is mood swings. People who are stressed can suffer from extreme mood swings.
One minute you’re feeling happy and the next you’re crying and overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. You may feel calm and relaxed and then suddenly have feelings of unbelievable rage.
So What Can You Do About These Problems?
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The most obvious answer is to remove the source of stress. Whether it’s problems at work or at home, you need to quickly identify what’s stressing you out and solve the problem. If you cannot do that then you need to find a way to relieve and reduce your stress.
There are many ways to do this. You can try exercise, yoga, meditation, or other type of alternative therapy. Also, pay attention to your diet.
A poor diet can make the physical and mental symptoms of stress a lot more severe. Along with this, you should monitor your drug and alcohol intake. Abusing drugs and alcohol will make your problems worse.
Finally, if none of this helps, then you may want to consider taking medication. There are many types of medication (such as antidepressants) which can work wonders for stress.
About The Author:
Vince Tint is an entrepreneur, creative thinker, and mental health advocate. He is a passionate digital marketing consultant who specializes in digital-first approaches for healthcare and medical companies. He regularly contributes his byline to outlets including Entrepreneur, AdWeek, Inc., FastCompany, and many more.