Can Stress Make You Sick? Fever, Blood Pressure And More
Most people are affected by stress at some point in their lives. In fact, 2022 data from Ipsos found that at least 52% of Americans reported feeling so stressed that they felt they could not cope or deal at least once in the past year.But what happens when stress is experienced over a long period of time, and what effect does it have on a person’s health?
Find out more about stress, including the differences between acute and chronic stress, the symptoms you might experience, the illnesses and health concerns associated with stress, as well as tips for managing it in daily life.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the body’s response to stressors, which could be external or internal. An external stressor could be a challenging event or situation, while an internal stressor might be a negative thought or worry.
“Stress can be positive when it helps you complete a task or react to a life-threatening situation,” says Matthew Pierson, M.D., a psychiatrist and the medical director for ERC Pathlight in Maryland. “Or it can be negative, [like] when it leads you to overreact emotionally or make poor choices.”
In 2022, respondents of the American Psychological Society’s Stress in America survey pointed to money worries, including inflation, and the political climate as sources of stress in their lives. The same survey suggested that people also experienced a lot of stress due to the threat of gun violence and crime, along with feeling unprotected.
During a period of stress, hormones are released in the body, which can increase your pulse, make your muscles more tense and put your brain on high alert. These reactions may be beneficial if experienced in the short term by helping us react quickly to challenging situations, but longer periods of stress can become problematic. “If stress is not dealt with, it can become chronic and lead to long-term health consequences,” explains Dr Pierson.