Common symptoms of stress

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Common symptoms of stress
A headache is one of the most common symptoms of stress. (office headache image by John Keith from Fotolia.com)

Stress is an everyday occurrence for most people, and it can be caused by something as simple as sleeping through the alarm clock or as major as the death of a loved one. Although people vary in their response to stress, when the body is under repeated or prolonged stress, certain symptoms typically appear.

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Headache

Stress is a common trigger of a headache, according to the NHS, affecting over 40 per cent of the UK population at any one time. The NHS explains that when you are under stress, the muscles in your neck tighten and a feeling of pressure builds behind your eyes, leading to headache pain. Once the stress subsides, the tension headache usually disappears with it.

High blood pressure

Stress will raise your blood pressure temporarily, but it may not be the cause of chronic high blood pressure, according to the U.S. health resource the American Heart Association. The AHA explains that when you experience stress, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are secreted into the bloodstream. Stress hormones increase heart rate and tighten blood vessels, which intends to send blood to the body's core instead of the body's extremities. These physiological changes in the body raise blood pressure. Once stress is eliminated, blood pressure returns to normal.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, occurs when the immune system malfunctions and triggers inflammation in the intestinal tract, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. A report in the April 2010 issue of "Inflammatory Bowel Disease" states that stress may be a contributing factor to IBD, as it can increase inflammation in the intestinal mucosa and make the course of IBD worse. The authors of the report state that psychological counselling can relieve stress, help patients deal with IBD and alter the progression of the disease.

Ulcers

You may have heard the expression that worrying too much can give you an ulcer, and the fact is, it is partially true. Years ago, it was believed that stomach ulcers were caused by stress. Then, in 1982 it was discovered that Helicobacter pylori bacteria lived in the stomach, and doctors believed it was H. pylori that caused ulcers, according to the Nemours Foundation. Since that time, there has been much debate over stress's role in ulcer formation. A report in the Feb. 14, 1998 issue of "British Medical Journal" states that while H. pylori is often present in those who have ulcers, not all who have H. pylori develop ulcers, which puts a slight hole in the theory that H. pylori is the sole cause of ulcers. Instead, Susan Levenstein, researcher and author of the BMJ report, states that H. pylori works alongside stress, and there is definitive evidence that psychological stress influences the onset of ulcers. One small study that verifies the association between stress and ulcers can be found in the 2002 issue of the "Journal of Holistic Nursing". In this study, people with ulcers were divided into two groups. One group took part in a stress management program, while the other group were given relaxation tapes to listen to. The group that participated in stress management not only lowered their stress scores, but they showed a greater degree of ulcer healing.

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