Emotional stress symptoms

Updated June 13, 2017

All people experience emotional stress. How emotional stress manifests itself varies from person to person, but some common symptoms exist. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body to fight or run from perceived danger. This nervous system response can cause a range of physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms, the information website notes. Many stress symptoms mimic the symptoms of physical illness, so you should consult your health care provider, hospital or a mental health professional to address your specific symptoms.


A general feeling of being upset commonly signals emotional stress. Irritability and a sense of frustration can lead you to be short with others, and you might experience anger regarding things that would not normally upset you.

Lack of emotional control

Stress can bring on sudden emotional outbursts and marked mood swings. You might feel that you cannot control your emotions or changes of mood. People around you might comment on your rapid mood changes, or express seeing a difference in your personality.


Your inward thinking patterns change in response to emotional stress, notes. You might mentally “speak” to yourself in a negative way, and find reasons to criticise yourself. A negative attitude might cause others to withdraw from you, leaving you with a sense of isolation.

Changes in eating patterns

Emotional stress can cause changes in appetite and eating patterns. You might find that you eat all the time, even in the absence of hunger. Some people react to stress by not eating as much as usual, while others use food as an emotional crutch. Gaining or losing weight unintentionally, within a short time period, can be a sign of emotional eating.

Trouble concentrating

Stress interferes with concentration, often leading to trouble with making decisions, according to Memory problems sometimes accompany changes in concentration ability. Marks in school or work performance might decline during periods of emotional stress.

Physical symptoms

Emotional stress can manifest through many different physical symptoms. Pain in the back, chest, muscles and stomach can result from stress, notes You might experience muscle spasms, sweaty hands or digestive complaints, such as upset stomach or diarrhoea. Stress also causes skin rashes in certain people.

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About the Author

Jenny Good began writing professionally in 2005, offering career- and life-coaching advice online. Good has a technical degree in early childhood education and studied career coaching through ReCareer, Inc. She is completing a Bachelor of Science in psychology at Southern New Hampshire University.