Stress Symptoms

A stressful job, relationship difficulties, unresolved grief, long-term illness, abuse or injury from an accident; whatever the cause, the response to too much stress is always a combination of psychology and physiology. Excessive stress and overwhelming traumatic experiences reduce our capacity for self-regulation or how well we move between activity, rest and different emotional states. Too much stress can make us hypersensitive which often triggers disproportionate responses to feelings and situations that would otherwise be considered ‘normal’. Left unresolved for months and years, this can lead to unresponsiveness or erratic feelings and behaviour along with some of the following symptoms:

Common Psychological Symptoms of Excessive Stress

  • Anxiety – sudden feelings of panic or including chronic low level anxiety
  • Hypervigilance – always feeling on ‘red alert’, ongoing sense of dread
  • Circular thinking – thoughts, words or images that keep repeating
  • Phobias and specific overwhelming fears
  • Flash backs and intrusive memories or images
  • Difficulties with memory
  • Ongoing overwhelming sense of shame, frustration, anger, depression
  • Strong emotion response ‘seemingly’ without a source
  • Insomnia, nightmares, night terrors and general sleep difficulties
  • Mental or emotional exhaustion
  • Mental ‘blankness’ or spaced-out, floaty feelings

Common Physical Symptoms of Excessive Stress

  • Generalised tension through the body, stiff joints
  • Racing heart, palpitations, breathing problems e.g. asthma
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, sound or touch
  • Extreme sensitivity to temperature, especially cold
  • Excessive sweating
  • Lack of physical sensation in local or whole body area
  • Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly some headaches, migraines, neck and back problems
  • Muscle weakness, muscle and joint pain
  • Physical fatigue/tiredness
  • Digestive problems, e.g. IBS
  • Immune system problems – e.g. increased susceptibility to viruses and autoimmune responses
  • Skin disorders – e.g. psoriasis and eczema
  • Environmental sensitivities – e.g. hay fever, dust and food allergies

Common Behavioural Symptoms of Excessive Stress:

  • Obsessive compulsive behaviours
  • Responding to situations in ways that afterwards feel disproportionate or inappropriate
  • Addictive behaviours e.g. drugs, prescribed medication, alcohol, sex, gambling, technology
  • Avoiding places, activities, memories, situations or people through isolation and avoidance behaviours
  • Attraction to dangerous situations or people
  • Compulsively consuming high amounts of carbohydrate, caffeine and other stimulants
  • Sudden dietary changes, binge eating and/or starving

Common feelings and ‘self-talk’ associated with Excessive Stress:

  • feeling overly distant from other people
  • feeling empty inside
  • finding it hard to connect
  • “I want to explode”
  • “I’m banging my head against a wall”
  • feeling unworthy to receive love or nurturing
  • “I can’t commit”
  • feeling overwhelmed “all the time”
  • feeling indecisive
  • “everything’s a bit hazy”
  • “It all seems too much”
  • feel ‘lost’ in life
  • feeling lethargic
  • feeling like giving up
  • “I can’t get started”
  • feeling stuck in behavioural and emotional loops