Stress is unavoidable in life, whether it’s from a round of layoffs at work, a breakup with your significant other, or even something as simple as driving through bad traffic.
But chronic or long-term stress is taking it to a whole other level, and you really don’t want to go there, for your health’s sake.
Experts explain what chronic stress actually is, and share the top health conditions that can actually be triggered by long-term high levels of stress.
Jeanette Raymond, a psychologist and psychotherapist, defines long-term stress as “a prolonged period of stress that permanently alters the hormonal and chemical balance in the immune system.”
“It is caused by lack of control over life situations -- usually bad relationships starting in childhood and continuing -- a trap that's difficult to get out of,” Raymond said in an email. “The period of time is usually years, not weeks or months.”
Anastasia Pollock, a psychotherapist, said in an email that chronic high stress is defined as “stress that is outside the person’s window of tolerance of coping for a period longer than a few days.”
Raymond believes chronic stress can lead to health conditions because stress can increase cortisol levels and compromise the immune system. Many people cope with stress in unhealthy ways like smoking, abusing alcohol or eating unhealthy foods as well.
She said that 16 of some of the major physical health conditions that are associated with long-term stress include:
1) Irritable Bowel Syndrome
2) Inflammatory Bowel Disease
3) Hair Loss
5) Low Libido
6) Weight Gain and Obesity
7) Lower Back Pain
9) Skin Breakouts
11) Rheumatoid Arthritis
12) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
15) Heart Disease
Pollock added that there are six more health problems related to long-term stress:
1) Gastrointestinal problems
2) Autoimmune disorders
3) Reproductive issues (e.g., irregular periods and fertility struggles)
4) Inflammation of organs and joints
5) Body pains and aches