We all know that stress is not good for us. Freaking out once in a while over an assignment you forgot about, or spending a few hours worrying about whether or not your crush likes you isn’t going to kill you. But spending the majority of your day stressing about every little thing you could possibly stress about just might, eventually. In the meantime, it will definitely have some seriously terrible side effects on your body.
I’ve been learning about some of those side effects firsthand the last few months. As a generally anxious person who worries a lot, I’ve always been susceptible to stress. In the last year, I’ve been even more stressed out than usual about a lot of personal things, some big and some silly and small. I was recently diagnosed with a few stomach issues that have been making my life miserable. And while doctors can’t figure out exactly which foods are causing my issues, they can agree on one thing: stress is making them worse. Stress is literally making me physically sick.
We already know that stress can cause insomnia, headaches, even reactions like hives. But do we know about all of the awful things stress can do to us? Here are 10 terrible side effects of stress you didn’t know about. Take a deep breath, and please try to relax.
It Makes You Age FasterRecent research has found that girls who are prone to stress and depression may age faster than girls who are not. Girls who deal with stress and depression have shorter telomeres, which are caps on the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging. Shorter telomeres are also linked to premature death - the older you are, the shorter your telomeres are. Scientists were surprised to find that girls as young as 10-years-old had shorter telomeres because of stress. Aging may not be your top concern right now, but in the future it will be. Keep your stress under control for a longer life. Source: ShutterStock
It Can Shrink Your BrainYou know that stress can mess with your emotions - but did you know that it can literally shrink your brain? One study found that people with high stress showed smaller gray matter in their brains in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for self-control and emotions, among other things. Chronic stress can wither away parts of the brain gradually, so gradually that we don't even notice it happening. Creepy. Source: ShutterStock
It Is Tied With Memory LossSevere stress can even mess with your memory, found one study, making it harder to remember certain things and even making it more difficult to form new memories. When you're stressed, your body produces cortisol. Cortisol can reduce synapses that house short-term memory. It's not that you lose the memory entirely, it's just that it's harder for you to remember things, and certain memories may even be inaccessible for a period of time. Source: ShutterStock
It Can Make You More Susceptible To IllnessToo much stress can quite literally kill you. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. Studies have found that stress can mess up your body's immune system, making it more likely for you to contract an illness. So, if you're really stressed out, you have a much higher chance of catching that cold that's going around. Stress also causes deterioration in everything in your body, making you more susceptible to not only something as simple as a cold, but even something as serious as a disease like cancer. Source: ShutterStock
It Is Linked To Keeping Cancer Cells AliveNot only can stress make you more susceptible to getting cancer, but it may also contribute to keeping your cancer cells alive. A 2013 study found that when mice were stressed out, their cancer cells were less likely to die when being treated. Basically, the adrenaline that was being released when the mice were stressed was keeping cancer cells alive. Scientists have to do more studies on humans to confirm this, but they found this extremely interesting... and disturbing. Source: ShutterStock
It Can Lead To DepressionEven if you have heard this already, it's worth mentioning again. Studies have shown that chronic stress can make someone depressed. Stress can kill neurons in the brain and prevent neurogenesis from happening in the region called the hippocampus. Neurogenesis is important for the birth of new brain cells and helps us have healthy responses. This can explain why stress and depression are so often linked. Source: ShutterStock
It Can Cause Skin IssuesForget about the possibility of acne - high stress can cause even more problematic and serious skin disorders. Studies have shown that stress can cause or worsen skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. When you're stressed, the hormone glcocorticoid is increased - and when that hormone is blocked, it results in better skin. Source: ShutterStock
It Affects Your Dental HealthLike I said before, stress can deteriorate everything in your body - that includes your gums. Also, a common way for people to deal with stress throughout the day is to grind or clench their teeth. People usually don't even realize they're doing it, but grinding and clenching your teeth can damage your teeth, lead to TMJ, and lead to severe neck pain. Source: ShutterStock
It Makes It Harder To Control Your EmotionsIt's basically common knowledge that stress can change the way you think. When you're more stressed out, you may have different reactions to things than you would if you were relaxed. Studies have found that it takes a lot of effort to control your emotions, and you rely on an area of your brain called the prefrontal cortex to do so. But this area of your brain is highly susceptible to stress, so when you're really stressed out, it's harder for you to control your way of thinking. Source: ShutterStock
It Can Decrease Sex DriveCompared to a lot of other things on this list, a decreased sex drive doesn't sound too bad. But that doesn't mean it's not a big problem for some people. Studies have shown that too much stress can affect your sex drive, making you less turned on. It makes sense - a good sex life is connected with happy, relaxed people. Source: ShutterStock
Are you very stressed out? How do you deal with your stress? What has stress done to you or your life? Tell me in the comments.