Mental Health

What are the 5 symptoms of stress?

symptoms of stress Posted On
Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

Reviewed by Nancy Diaz, MSW. Updated on April 27, 2021. 2nd Update on August 25, 2022

Stress is an automatic response of the body when it feels imminent danger. It is characterized by the production by the adrenal glands of stress hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol) that prepare the human being to react quickly and forcefully.

This reaction is known as the escape or fight response also called the acute stress reaction. In modern society, saber-toothed tigers don’t longer pursue us, but we have other factors that cause stress, such as lack of money, the rat race, family and social pressure, lack of free time, etc.

Let’s talk about the symptoms of stress:


Anxiety is one of the symptoms of stress. You may feel anxiety about external or internal factors. Daily stressful situations are external factors. Internal factors are thoughts that cause anxiety.

When the fear that you feel is proportionate to the danger to which you are confronted, we can speak of normal anxiety, something that all human beings feel promptly. Nowadays, it is more accurate to use the term stress factor rather than danger in most cases.

If the reaction is disproportionate and disabling towards a danger, which in many cases is unreal, one can speak of pathological anxiety. This type of anxiety is recurrent and prevents many of the patients from having a normal life.
The most frequent symptoms are sweating, dizziness, nausea, palpitations, dry mouth, trembling, and chest pain.


Depression is another of the symptoms of stress.

What is depression?

A simplified summary would be that it is an emotional imbalance that is characterized by a state of disproportionate and prolonged sadness. To be specific, it would mean that you feel sad for more than two weeks.

In general, depression is characterized by a feeling of dejection; there is nothing that interests you, and you don’t feel like doing anything. It often comes with insomnia problems or vice versa, not having the will to get out of bed. As this state causes an imbalance, you will often feel anxious, and that for no specific reason.

It also affects self-esteem; you can feel useless and insignificant. This depression can cause significant weight loss or weight gain. If depression lasts for a prolonged time, you may have suicidal thoughts. It’s important to seek help from a health professional immediately if this occurs. All these symptoms are interconnected, and to overcome depression, you have to treat all these symptoms at once.

Compulsive behaviour

Stress is often also characterized by compulsive behavior. Resulting in a toxic approach concerning alcohol, drugs, pills, or tobacco. But even concerning food where one can eat excessively or suddenly stop eating.

This behavior responds to our desire for immediate gratification where our brain begins the production of dopamine, the pleasure hormone when we surrender to these vices.

The problem is that these substances cause the body to produce cortisol, one of the stress hormones, which makes us feel even more stressed and therefore makes us enter a vicious circle. This is one of the reasons why in 2020, dopamine fasting in Silicon Valley became fashionable. Be aware that acute fasting, not eating at all, also increases dopamine levels, but holding on for a prolonged period would cause obvious problems.

Insomnia, fatigue and headaches

Other symptoms of stress are insomnia that results in fatigue that, in turn, leads to headaches. Those symptoms occur in combination with dehydration. Dehydration is an effect of the stress that your anxiety puts on your body.

Low self-esteem

The last of the symptoms of stress, and the final result is that you will have low self-esteem, and you will feel insecure.

What causes stress today?

The cause of stress is the rhythm and demands of modern society.

symptoms of stress
75 to 90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related issues

Let’s analyze. The human body works like a machine that has been perfected for a very long time. The human had to develop a defense mechanism against external hazards that were very present such as predators. In case of facing danger, the body gave us the power to raise the production of stress hormones in the adrenal glands when faced with imminent danger.

The body began to produce the hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine if it encounters a threat. You would feel that your body starts to raise the body temperature resulting in sweats. You would have palpitations to increase the fluctuation of the blood in your body, your pupils would dilate to be more alert, and the other functions of your body would be paused which would make you feel dizzy after some time.

Almost instantly, the body would produce a hormone called cortisol that helps raise blood sugar or glucose. The body uses glucose to make available the necessary energy that it would need to react, but this would also cause a feeling of anxiety. This mechanism is called the escape or fight reaction. It served our ancestors to survive.

In our modern society, external danger factors are less clear, we usually call them stressors, but the escape or fight mechanism responds to them in the same way it used to. We no longer start running or fighting when we are faced with these external factors, and that is why that energy accumulates in our body and results in anxiety. In more extreme cases, it will lead to panic attacks or, in other cases, prolonged anxiety that can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Now I am going to give you a trick to relieve your symptoms of stress and anxiety:

It is called controlled breathing. Every time you feel stressed and notice anxiety symptoms, you will close your eyes and start breathing very slowly through your nose, concentrating on your abdomen. You will see how well it helps. It will significantly relieve the symptoms of anxiety. The reasons are simple. The human body uses abdominal breathing when it is relaxed, and when there is no danger, this gives a signal to your body that everything is going well.

At the same time breathing through the nose, you purify more the air that enters your body and let the air travel a more extended way distributing more oxygen throughout your body. On the contrary, the buco-thoracic breathing, combining mouth and chest, is a short breathing circuit that the human uses in moments of tension and danger. Unfortunately, modern man has become accustomed to dealing with so much daily stress that he uses unconscious thoracic breathing as if we would live in a state of constant danger.

You will also have to learn to say no and take time off. Dedicate moments of your day only to your wellbeing by reading, walking, or listening to music.
You will see, lowering your expectations and thinking more about yourself will make you feel more relaxed and reduce all of the symptoms of stress.

If you need more information check out the website of the Mental Health Foundation.

Take care.

Infographic 5 symptoms of stress

Interesting Questions and Answers about Stress

What are the warning signs of stress?

You feel:

  • Overwhelmed
  • Tired
  • Emotional
  • Anxious
  • Unfocused
  • Dizzy
  • Depressed

What are the main symptoms of stress?

The most commonly reported symptoms of stress are:

  • Feeling irritable/angry
  • Being nervous/anxious
  • Having a lack of interest/motivation
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Being depressed/sad
  • Feeling confused

What are the most common stress management techniques?

The most reported stress management techniques include:

  • Listening to music
  • Exercising/Walking
  • Watching television * > try napping or sleeping instead
  • Surfing the internet *  > try spending time doing a hobby instead
  • Read
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Pray

*Not recommended

What are the main causes of stress?

  • Money, including housing costs
  • Work, including job stability
  • The economy
  • Family responsibilities
  • Personal health concerns
  • Relationships
  • Personal safety

What are  lifestyle changes you can make to improve your mental health?

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a healthier diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Connect with others
  • Be  mindful and creative


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Health Symptoms of Stress Symptoms of Stress

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