Stress causing fatigue

Physical Effects of Stress and How to Treat

Stress can be defined as the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure. It can have mental and physical consequences (1).

At one point or another, most people deal with feelings of stress. In fact, a study from 2015 found that 59% of adults reported experiencing high levels of perceived stress (2).


Stress, which is a feeling of being overwhelmed by mental or emotional pressure, is a very common issue.

Decreased energy and insomnia

Prolonged stress can cause chronic fatigue and disruptions in sleep, which may result in decreased energy levels.

For example, a recent study of more than 7,000 working adults found that fatigue was “significantly associated” with work-related stress (3).

Stress may also disrupt sleep and cause insomnia, which can lead to low energy.

A 2018 review published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that “stress-related worry and rumination” can lead to disrupted sleep and eventually the risk of developing insomnia (4).

Another study of 2,316 participants showed that exposure to stress was associated with an increased risk of insomnia (5).

Both of these studies focus in on sleep reactivity, or the extent to which stress affects the ability to fall sleep or remain asleep.

While it’s evident that stress can disrupt sleep, not everyone who experiences stress or who is going through a stressful time will deal with insomnia or sleep disturbances.

Changes in libido

Many people experience changes in their sex drives during stressful periods.

One small study evaluated the stress levels of 30 women and then measured their sexual arousal while watching an erotic film. Those with high levels of chronic stress experienced less sexual arousal compared with those with lower stress levels (6).

A much more recent study published in 2021 on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s reproductive health found that 45% of the over 1,000 women surveyed reported a reduced libido due to stress (7).

In addition to stress, there are many other potential causes of changes in libido, including:

  • hormonal changes
  • fatigue
  • psychological issues


Some studies suggest that chronic stress may be associated with depression and depressive episodes.

One study of 816 women with major depression found that the onset of depression was significantly associated with both acute and chronic stress (8).

Another study found that high levels of stress were associated with the onset of major depression in adolescents (9).

In addition, a 2018 review highlighted the connection between depression and the experience of chronic or inescapable stress (10).

Besides stress, some potential contributors to depression include:

  • family history
  • age
  • environmental factors
  • even certain medications and illnesses

Stress can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including decreased energy, insomnia, libido changes, and depression.


Some studies have found that higher levels of stress are associated with increased bouts of acne (11).

One reason for this may be because when some people feel stressed out, they tend to touch their faces more often. This can spread bacteria and contribute to the development of acne (12).

Several studies have also confirmed that acne may be associated with higher levels of stress.

One small study measured acne severity in 22 university students before and during an exam. During examination periods in which stress increased, acne became more severe (13).

Another study of 94 teenagers found that higher stress levels were associated with worse acne, particularly in boys (14).

These studies show an association, but they don’t account for other factors that may be involved. Further research is needed to look at the connection between acne and stress.

In addition to stress, other potential causes of acne include:

  • inflammation
  • hormonal shifts
  • bacteria
  • excess oil production
  • clogged pores


Many studies have found that stress can contribute to headaches, a condition characterized by pain in the head, face, or neck region.

A 2015 study showed that increased stress intensity was associated with an increase in the number of headache days experienced per month (15).

Another study surveyed 172 military service members at a headache clinic, finding that 67% reported their headaches were triggered by stress, making it the second most common headache trigger (16).

A smaller 2020 study also found that stress can be a driving factor in tension headaches [17].

Other common headache triggers can include lack of sleep, diet, alcohol consumption, hormonal changes, and more.

Chronic pain

Aches and pains are a common complaint that can result from increased levels of stress. Some studies have found that chronic pain may be associated with higher levels of stress as well as increased levels of cortisol, which is the body’s main stress hormone.

For example, one very small study compared people with chronic back pain to a control group. It found that those with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol (18).

Another study showed that people with chronic pain had higher levels of cortisol in their hair, which the study described as a novel indicator of prolonged stress (19).

Keep in mind that these studies show an association but don’t look at other factors that may be involved.

Besides stress, there are many other factors that can contribute to chronic pain, such as:

  • aging
  • injuries
  • chronic poor posture
  • nerve damage

Frequent sickness

If you feel like you’re constantly battling a case of the sniffles or other sickness, stress may be to blame.

Stress may take a toll on your immune system. Studies show that higher stress levels are associated with increased susceptibility to infection.

In one study, 116 older adults were given the flu vaccine. Those with chronic stress were found to have a weakened immune response to the vaccine, indicating that stress may be associated with decreased immunity (20).

Similarly, one analysis looking at 27 studies showed that stress was linked to increased susceptibility of developing an upper respiratory infection (21).

A chapter in the 2019 book “The Impact of Everyday Stress on the Immune System and Health” stated that psychological stress can affect a range of bodily functions, such as inflammatory responses, wound healing, and the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease (22).

However, stress is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to immune health. A weakened immune system can also be the result of:

  • a low-nutrient diet
  • substance use
  • physical inactivity
  • disorders of the immune system, such as AIDS

Digestive issues

Some studies have found that stress may be associated with digestive issues, like constipation, heartburn, diarrhea, as well as digestive disorders.

For example, an older study from 2010 that focused on 2,699 children found that exposure to stressful events was associated with increased rates of constipation (23).

Stress may especially affect those with digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

In one study, increased symptoms of digestive distress were associated with higher daily stress levels in 181 women with IBS ().

Additionally, one analysis of 18 studies that investigated the role of stress on inflammatory bowel disease noted that 72% of studies found an association between stress and negative clinical and symptom outcomes (25).

A study from 2017 also highlights the direct connection between stress and symptoms of IBS, saying stress plays “a major role” in the manifestation and worsening of digestive symptoms (26).

Keep in mind that many other factors can cause digestive issues, such as diet, bacteria, infections, certain medications, and more.

Appetite changes and weight gain

Changes in appetite are common during times of stress.

When you feel stressed out, you may find yourself with no appetite at all or overeating without noticing.

One small 2006 study of 272 female college students found that 81 percent reported that they experienced changes in appetite when they were stressed out, with 62 percent stating they had an increase in appetite (27).

Changes in appetite may also cause fluctuations in weight during stressful periods. For example, a study involving 1,355 people in the United States found that stress was associated with weight gain in adults already living with extra weight (28).

A third study from 2017 found that individuals with higher cortisol and insulin levels and higher levels of chronic stress were more likely to gain weight in the future (29). However, the study was limited in the scope of research in that participants were predominantly white females.

While these studies show an association between stress and changes in appetite or weight, more studies are needed to understand other possible factors are involved and how stress impacts different people.

Rapid heartbeat

Several studies have shown that high stress levels can cause a fast heartbeat or heart rate. Stressful events or
tasks may also increase heart rate (30).

In a similar study from 2001, exposing 87 students to a stressful task was found to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Interestingly enough, playing relaxing music during the task actually helped prevent these changes (31).

According to the American Heart Association, undergoing a stressful event can cause your body to release adrenaline, which is a hormone that temporarily causes your heart to beat faster and your blood pressure to rise. This is one reason why living with increased stress may create a rapid heartbeat (32).


Exposure to stress may also cause excess sweating, research suggests.

One small study looked at 20 people with palmar hyperhidrosis, a condition characterized by excess sweating in the hands. The study assessed their rate of sweating throughout the day using a scale of 0–10.

Stress significantly increased the rate of sweating by two to five points in those with palmar hyperhidrosis, as well as in the control group (33).

Another study found that 40 teenagers exposed to stress experienced high amounts of sweating and odor (34).

A 2013 review on “psychological sweating” notes such sweating occurs in response to stress and anxiety, stating this type of sweat typically appears on the face, palms, soles of the feet, and underarms (35).


The physical symptoms of chronic stress are varied and vast, and can include acne, headaches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, changes in appetite, digestive issues, chronic pain, and more frequent infections or bouts of sickness.

As nice as it would be to have a single pill that could completely eliminate all stress, because there are so many different factors that cause stress, there is no one-size-fits-all way to treat it.

Talking with your doctor or a therapist is a great first step, as they can help you figure out what exactly is causing your stress and suggest ways to manage and treat it. They can also help you figure out if your symptoms are indeed caused by stress or another preexisting condition.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are a few lifestyle choices that can also help in managing stress. Some of these include (36):

  • taking breaks from the news
  • taking breaks from your devices (computer, phone, TV)
  • getting adequate exercise and sleep
  • taking breaks to allow your body to rest
  • increasing nutrient-rich foods in your diet
  • doing deep breathing exercises
  • meditating
  • avoiding excessive substance use
  • talking with friends, a trusted advisor, or a therapist
  • building community though faith-based organizations or activities you enjoy

If you feel overwhelmed from stress and aren’t sure what to do, or are having feelings of self-harm, it’s important to talk with someone you trust or a therapist.

You can also call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255, 24 hours a day.

Help is always available.


Because stress can be caused by a variety of issues and symptoms can vary from person to person, treating it depends on personal factors.

However, certain lifestyle changes, like exercising, taking breaks from the 24-hour news cycle, and talking with friends or trusted advisors may provide some relief.

Chronic stress can affect your entire body, and if it’s not properly managed, can cause serious issues, such as (37):

  • back pain
  • muscle tension
  • worsening asthma symptoms
  • worsening obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms
  • increased risk of hypertension, stroke, or heart attack
  • mental health conditions

Chronic stress can affect your entire body, and if left untreated, may drastically reduce your quality of life through chronic pain, increased risk of certain diseases, and changes in mental health.

Occasional stressful events are a part of everyone’s life.

Working through and processing these events — with a support system, if needed — is key to keeping chronic stress at bay.

Chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical wellness, creating a wide range of symptoms such as low energy levels, headaches, changes in mood, and decreased sex drive.

Fortunately, there are many ways to help relieve stress, such as talking with friends or a therapist, exercising, and meditating.

Just one thing

Stress and anxiety often overlap, but anxiety has its own classification and is sometimes treated with medication. Give this article a read if you think you may be dealing with anxiety.

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and More

What is emotional exhaustion?

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout.

People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.

Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Over time, this chronic, stressed-out state can cause permanent damage to your health.

Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. In difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on you, but it’s never too late to get help.

The symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be both emotional and physical.

People experience emotional exhaustion differently, but generally symptoms include:

  • lack of motivation
  • trouble sleeping
  • irritability
  • physical fatigue
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • absentmindedness
  • apathy
  • headaches
  • change in appetite
  • nervousness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irrational anger
  • increased cynicism or pessimism
  • sense of dread
  • depression
If you need someone to talk to

Emotional exhaustion, feelings of hopelessness, and lack of life purpose can be overwhelming. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Employers whose employees are overworked and emotionally exhausted may begin to notice changes in job performance and overall team morale. For example, they might start to notice that their employees have:

  • failure to meet deadlines
  • lower commitment to the organization
  • more absences
  • high turnover rate

Experiencing some daily stress and anxiety is normal, but over time, chronic stress can take a toll on the body. Emotional exhaustion is caused by a long period of constant life stress, whether from personal stress at home or stress related to work.

What triggers emotional exhaustion differs from person to person. What might be stressful for one person can be completely manageable for another person.

Some more common triggers of emotional exhaustion include:

  • high-pressure jobs, such as nurses, doctors, police officers, and teachers
  • intense schooling, such as medical school
  • working long hours or working at a job you hate
  • having a baby
  • raising children
  • financial stress or poverty
  • homelessness
  • being a caregiver for a loved one
  • prolonged divorce proceedings
  • death of a family member or friend
  • living with a chronic illness or injury

You can make certain lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms of emotional exhaustion. These techniques won’t be easy to carry out at first, but they’ll get easier as you begin to form healthier habits.

Making small changes in your daily habits can help manage your symptoms and prevent emotional burnout.

Once you recognize the signs of emotional exhaustion, try the following:

Eliminate the stressor

While not always possible, the best way to treat stress is to eliminate the stressor. If your work environment is the cause of your emotional exhaustion, consider changing jobs or companies. If your manager or boss is causing your stress, you can also consider transferring to a new department or asking to be placed under a different manager.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy means choosing a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, while avoiding sugary snacks and fried or processed foods.

We’re told to eat healthy all the time, but it can make a world of difference when you’re stressed. Not only will it help you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but it will also improve digestion, sleep, and energy levels, which can have a domino effect on your emotional state.


Any sort of physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels. This can improve your emotional state. Exercise also helps take your mind off your problems. Try to exercise for 30 minutes per day, even if it’s just a long walk.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, but the feeling will quickly wear off, leaving you more anxious and depressed than before. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for mental health. It’s even more effective if you plan your bedtime for roughly the same time every night. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Developing a routine at bedtime can help you relax and ensure better quality sleep. Limiting caffeine can also have a positive impact on your sleep schedule.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a term you probably hear a lot, but mindfulness techniques are much more than just a fad. They’re scientifically recognized to reduce stress and anxiety and can be the key to balancing your emotions.

Mindfulness is the act of engaging with the present moment. This can help direct your attention away from negative thinking. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Examples include:

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • breathing exercises
  • going for a walk, especially in nature
  • keeping a journal to write down your feelings and thoughts

Researchers recently even found evidence that a single session of mindfulness meditation can help reverse the effects of stress on the body.

Connect with a trusted friend

Talking face to face with a friend is a wonderful way to relieve stress. The person listening doesn’t necessarily have to fix your issues. They can just be a good listener. A trusted friend or family member can listen without judging you.

If you don’t have anyone close to turn to, check if your employer has an employee assistance program with counseling services.

Take a break

Everyone needs a break at some point. Whether you take a vacation or simply find the time to take yourself out to the movies, every little bit helps.

Meet with a professional

Along with making lifestyle changes, it’s important to seek professional help to treat emotional exhaustion. A professional, such as a therapist, can give you the tools you need to work through a stressful period. Some of the techniques used by professionals include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy
  • applied relaxation techniques

Talk to your family doctor

In some cases, your primary care provider may suggest medications to help manage your symptoms. Antidepressants, such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications, or prescription sleeping aids have been used to help treat emotional exhaustion.

Medications such as benzodiazepines can be addictive and should only be used on a short-term basis to lower the risk of dependency or addiction.

The stress responsible for emotional exhaustion puts you at risk for a total burnout. Over time, it can lead to health problems. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, heart, metabolism, and overall well-being. Emotional exhaustion puts you at risk of:

  • high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease
  • frequent colds and infections
  • weight gain
  • insomnia
  • premature aging
  • anxiety
  • depression

Emotional exhaustion is a treatable condition. The best way to treat it is to eliminate the stressor or the stressful event. If emotional exhaustion is being caused by your job, for example, it may be time to consider changing jobs.

If you’re unable to eliminate the stressor, take advantage of resources available to cope. Talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

Stress and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Any irritating factor, be it an inconvenient work schedule, illness of a loved one or personal problems, eventually leads to the development of stress. However, it is a mistake to believe that all troubles come from outside. Often, stress is due to the nature of a person, for example, his emotionality, lack of vitamins and bad habits, which leads to a decrease in immunity. According to another point of view, chronic fatigue syndrome occurs against the background of herpes, enterovirus or Coxsackie virus.

In addition to the factors listed above, the emotional state of a person is influenced by his profession. Thus, the risk group includes specialists whose work involves constant communication or the performance of important tasks.

Stress and fatigue: is there a relationship?

Canadian doctor Hans Selye proved the existence of a relationship between stress (long-term or short-term, but strong) and chronic fatigue and formulated 2 stages of fatigue formation:

  • Resistance. The body mobilizes internal reserves, directing them to combat the negative impact. The active production of hormones is accompanied by an influx of energy. Ideally, over time, stressors weaken or disappear, and the body goes into a standard mode of operation. If this does not happen, a long struggle is followed by the next stage.
  • Exhaustion. The main consequence of prolonged stress is chronic fatigue. The body cannot support the work of the protective mechanism, and therefore becomes vulnerable. The problem is exacerbated if fatigue is associated with hormonal disorders, chronic diseases or situations, some of which are not possible to influence.

Symptoms of chronic fatigue can be confused with manifestations of other diseases. For example, ARVI or flu is characterized by a decrease in efficiency and concentration, weakness and a number of other conditions. However, there is one significant difference - such conditions can persist for 2 weeks after the end of treatment, but no more. Otherwise, you need to contact a specialist - a general practitioner, endocrinologist, adult or pediatric neurologist in Ufa.

When should I see a doctor?

The main symptoms of stress and chronic fatigue include apathy, lack of appetite, impaired memory and concentration, craving for bad habits, lack of interest in intimate life, exacerbation of chronic diseases, insomnia or, conversely, constant drowsiness, lack of strength and tremor.

If simple stress can be "cured" by taking a vacation, everything here is much more complicated. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Reduce the existing load by 20%.
  • Eliminate stressors.
  • Increase physical activity.
  • Relax. As an option - yoga, breathing exercises or massage of the cervical-collar zone in Ufa.
  • Visit a psychologist. A life without stress is an existence in harmony with oneself.
  • Do not stop taking your doctor's prescriptions. Antidepressants may be needed to treat severe conditions.

You can make an appointment with a neurologist in Ufa by calling +7 (347) 216 00 22.

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Stress is a state of psychological and physical tension in response to external influences. It can be caused by difficult situations, monotonous activities and emotional factors. Stress helps you adapt to a changing environment, but can have negative health consequences.

Is stress good or not?

Short-term one-time stress has a positive effect. In response to a stimulus, the body produces three hormones: cortisone, adrenaline, noradrenaline and activates the cells of the immune system.

Thanks to this, a person for a short time period:

  • memory improves;

  • increases the level of immunity;

  • the rate of tissue regeneration increases;

  • intellectual abilities are activated;

  • increases the endurance of the nervous system;

  • the functioning of the sense organs improves.

If a person is systematically exposed to a stress factor, all his organs and systems work hard. As a result, the body intensively wastes energy, passing through the three stages of the process.

The first stage takes effect at the moment of exposure to the stress factor, and lasts a few minutes. It is followed by a second one lasting from several hours to several days, during which a person is looking for a solution to the problem or a safe way out of the situation.

If the action of the factor continues, the body depletes the adaptive capacity and ceases to minimize the harmful effects of the stressor. It is at the stage of distress that a person experiences overload, psychological disorders, signs of somatic diseases.

Causes of stress

Allocate systemic and mental type of impact of a stress factor. The systemic type is the body's response to an infectious disease, inflammation, injury, light, high or low temperature. Mental type - manifests itself on the emotional and mental sphere, followed by the biological level.

Mental causes of stress include:

  • professional activities associated with increased responsibility;

  • complex relationships in the family;

  • conflicts, phobias, problems in communication, threats of a different nature, intractable problems, dysfunctional social relations in the team;

  • unfulfilled needs, low self-esteem, perfectionism;

  • change of place of residence or work, monotonous activity, divorce, death of a loved one;

  • information overload;

  • lack of rest sufficient to restore the psyche;

  • psycho-emotional tension caused by risk, time pressure, increased workload, novelty of the situation or its uncertainty.

The consequences of prolonged stress in men and women are the same - depression and somatic diseases. Therefore, it is important to timely note the signs of psychophysical stress, identify its causes and eliminate it.

Signs of stress

Prolonged exposure to a stress factor causes serious stress throughout the body, significantly worsening the general mood and well-being of a person.

Common symptoms of developing stress:

  • Muscle tension in the head, neck, shoulders, back.

  • Increased anxiety.

  • Irritability at the slightest provocation.

  • Reduced performance.

  • Depression, apathy.

  • Sleep disorders.

  • Absent-mindedness, deterioration of memory and ability to concentrate, slowing down the pace of thought processes.

  • Chronic fatigue, pessimism, desire to distance themselves from society.

  • Headache, unexplained chest pain.

  • Disorder of appetite, violation of the digestive function.

Often a person acquires an obsessive habit, for example, biting his lips, turning his neck, straightening his hair.

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