The 10 Most Surprising Stress Effects

Published December 18, 2013
Updated February 1, 2018

Stress impacts everyone in different ways, almost all of them negative. From going up a pant size to avoiding sex, these stress effects may surprise you.

Stress Effects

Source: Under 30 CEO

Life is stressful. Whether it’s a divorce, a high-profile job or studying for a history exam, anxiety always finds a way to creep into our lives. As bad as stress is on its own, medical professionals continue to uncover more ways that stress, particularly chronic stress, can impact our bodies and our lives. Read on to discover the most surprising way stress could be affecting your life.

Stress Effects No. 1: Memory Loss

Have you noticed that you are often more forgetful while stressed? Researchers have found that stress has a negative effect on cognitive functions, resulting in reduced concentration and memory loss. For many, a lack of concentration greatly reduces productivity at work and can have incredibly frustrating consequences.

Stress Effects No. 2: Poor Immune System Functioning

As if stress weren’t bad enough on its own, the pesky feeling can also detract from your overall health and make you more susceptible to illnesses and colds. Stress reduces immune functions, which prevent your body from being able to fight off bugs as easily as when you’re calm and relaxed. This stress-induced lack of immune function is particularly problematic during the winter months, when stress runs rampant and new strains of the flu emerge.

Stress Effects No. 3: Decreased Attraction Levels

Decreased Attraction Levels

Source: Blogspot

Could stress be killing your game? Apparently, it might. A recent study found that women were less attracted to men who had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Stress Effects No. 4: Lowered Satisfaction With Sex

Speaking of your sex life, chronically stressed individuals report having a reduced sex drive. Even worse, these stressed individuals also experience lower satisfaction with the sex they actually do have. Reduced sex drive and sexual satisfaction can have a negative impact on a number of relationships, causing additional stress or other life hiccups.

Stress Effects No. 5: Expedited Aging

Despite all of the creams and treatments that claim to restore youth and help you look and feel younger, stress could be making you age faster. Chronic stress can cause telomeres, the protective caps found on the ends of cell chromosomes, to shorten. In turn, your cells age faster, and you’ve got wrinkles at 30 instead of at 40. Try finding a cream for that!

Stress Effects No. 6: Increased Athletic Performance

Although stress primarily affects us in negative ways, there are times when the feeling can actually do some good. For instance, acute stress (not the chronic kind) can enhance performance in a number of sports. Stress’s heightened fight-or-flight response in the body can boost stamina and give you extra strength, which could make the difference between scoring the final point and falling short.

Stress Effects No. 7: A Hurricane Of Hormones

In women, chronic stress can lead to a decrease in important hormone levels. Both estrogen and progesterone production are reduced during periods of stress, while cortisol levels spike. Together, this change in hormone levels can cause painful or missed periods, negatively impact sex drive and result in exaggerated emotions. Stress can also cause a number of problems for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Stress Effects No. 8: Skin Damage

Stress can make you both look and feel less than stellar. As many people can personally attest to, stress can cause acne, possibly due to the production of androgens, and can also trigger psoriasis or make an existing outbreak worse. Chronic stress will also impact the look and feel of your hair; though it won’t turn them grey, stress can lead to dull, lifeless strands and even hair loss.

Stress Effects No. 9: Long-Term Sleep Disorders

Can’t sleep? It could be stress that’s keeping you awake! Stress can cause hyperarousal, which is a biological state in which people don’t feel sleepy.

For those suffering from acute stress (short-term stress that often comes about after a traumatic event like the death of a family member), the sleep problems should go away with time. However, chronic stress sufferers might develop a long-term sleep disorder. Sleep is incredibly important to the human body, and a lack of sleep can contribute to a number of problems.

Stress Effects No. 10: Widening Of The Waistband

If you feel that your stress is negatively affecting your weight loss goals, you might be right. Stress and weight gain are clearly correlated.

While stress can cause many people to overeat and give in to cravings more often, the likely culprit might also be from increased cortisol production. Studies show that cortisol, the stress hormone, can cause your body to store additional fat and enlarge the sizes of fat cells.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.