Emotional Signs of Stress & Ways to Manage Them
Stress, defined as emotional tension or mental strain, is all too common of a feeling for many of us.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the average stress level of adults in the United States in 2015 was 5.1 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Too much stress can produce both physical and emotional symptoms.
Let’s look at some of the emotional signs of stress and what you can do to reduce and manage them.
Depression as an illness in which an individual experiences a persistent and severe low mood.
Research suggests a link between high levels of stress and the onset of depression.
One study Trusted Source of over 800 women investigated the link between different types of stress and major depression.
During the study, the researchers found that both chronic and acute stress events contributed to a greater incidence of depression in women.
Another observational study Trusted Source examined stress levels of the working age population. The participants’ overall stress levels and symptoms were measured. Depression was more common in people who reported higher levels of stress.
- Reach out to a mental health professional.
- Both psychotherapy and medication can be effective treatments.
- Support groups, mindful techniques, and exercise may also help.
Anxiety differs from depression. It’s characterized by feelings of overwhelming dread, rather than just feelings of sadness.
However, like depression, studies have suggested that stress may be linked to anxiety and anxiety disorders.
In one study Trusted Source, researchers investigated the effects of stress levels at home and work on anxiety and depression levels. They found that people who experienced high levels of work stress were more likely to have more symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Reach out to a mental health professional.
- Treatment options include psychotherapy and medication.
- Alternative and complementary treatments are available for those who prefer a natural approach.
Irritability and anger can become common traits in people who are stressed.
In one study Trusted Source, higher levels of anger were associated with both mental stress and the possibility of a stress-related heart attack.
Another study Trusted Source investigated the relationship between anger, depression, and stress levels in caretakers. The researchers found an association between care-related chronic stress and anger levels.
- A variety of strategies can help keep anger levels under control. Relaxation techniques, problem solving, and communication are all great methods for helping to curb anger.
- Anger management techniques can help to reduce the stress in situations that’d normally leave you frustrated, tense, or angry.
4. Low sex drive
In some people, too much stress can have a negative impact on sex drive and the desire to be intimate.
A study Trusted Source published in 2014 found that chronic stress levels had a negative impact on sexual arousal. The research suggested that both high levels of cortisol and a higher chance of being distracted led to lower levels of arousal.
Much of the research surrounding stress and low libido involves women, but it can certainly affect men too. One animal study Trusted Source showed that social stress during adolescence affected the sexual appetite of male hamsters during adulthood.
- Reducing stress can help to restore your sex drive and improve libido.
- Self-care, relaxation techniques, and exercise are a few ways to raise self-confidence.
- Improving communication with a sexual partner may improve intimacy and restore positive feelings towards sex.
5. Memory and concentration problems
If you find yourself having trouble with concentration and memory, stress may be a part of the problem.
An animal study Trusted Source found that adolescent rats exposed to acute stress experienced more memory performance issues than their non-stressed counterparts.
Another review Trusted Source investigated the stress-response pathways in the brain and their effect on long-term memory. Researchers found that certain hormones following a stressful or traumatic event can have the ability to impair memory.
- Various lifestyle changes may help improve memory.
- Maintaining a healthy diet and keeping your body and mind active can keep you focused.
- Avoiding activities like drinking and smoking can help keep your brain healthy.
6. Compulsive behavior
There has long been a link between stress and addictive behaviors.
One paper Trusted Source expanded on the idea that stress-related changes in the brain may play a role in the development of addiction. According to the researchers, chronic stress can change the physical nature of the brain to promote habit- and addiction-forming behaviors.
Another study Trusted Source even found that in certain people, genetic variations can play a further role in the stress response and vulnerability towards addiction.
- Healthy lifestyle habits can help to reduce problematic and compulsive behavior. For more serious compulsive behaviors, professional help may be necessary.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse has resources for starting on the road to recovery. These include lifestyle recommendations to help manage stress.
7. Mood swings
The many emotional effects of stress can leave you feeling like you’re experiencing mood swings.
One study Trusted Source from 2014 examined the role of various types of stress tests on physiology, mood, and cognition. The research showed that both social and physical stressors can have a big impact on emotional well-being and mood.
With the many other emotional signs of stress, it’s easy to see just how big of an influence stress can have on your overall mood.
There are many ways to improve your mood, such as:
- reducing stress
- enjoying nature
- celebrating with friends
- mindfulness techniques
For more serious mood swings that don’t seem to go away, reach out to a mental health professional for help.
Ways to manage and reduce your stress
Reducing the emotional symptoms of stress starts with reducing the sources of stress in your life.
The American Institute of Stress explains that while there are a variety of stress-reducing techniques, finding ones that work for you is important.
- Physical activities such as running, jogging, and aerobics are a great way to physically relieve stress and tension.
- Relaxing physical activities such as yoga or tai chi can help to work your body while relaxing your mind. Try these yoga poses to relieve stress.
- Mindfulness techniques such as meditation can strengthen your emotional responses to stress.
- Reducing stress in different areas of your life, when possible, can help to lessen your exposure to chronic stressors.
- Mobile apps may calm your mind and offer guided conversations to help you manage stress and anxiety.
What’s the outlook?
Finding the stress-reducing techniques that work for you are an important step in decreasing emotional symptoms of stress.
Over time, you may find that your resolve against stress becomes stronger and that your symptoms improve.
However, if you find that you’re still struggling to handle the emotional aspects of everyday or chronic stress, it may be best to reach out to a mental health professional.
Keep in mind that stress can also have negative effects on your physical health. It’s important to get help to stay in your best shape, both emotionally and physically.
Medically reviewed by Dillon Browne, Ph.D. — Authored by Eleesha Lockett, MS —