I like to compare the body to a car. When something’s wrong with your car internally, it gives you external signs. It’ll start smoking if it’s out of oil or cut off if the alternator is bad. Similarly, when your body gets stressed out, it will let you know. But sometimes the signs it sends aren’t so clear.
We know about some of the more common signs of stress like headaches, inability to sleep, etc. However, you might also have some of these weirder signs, that believe it or not, might mean that you’re too stressed out.
1: Hair Loss
In an episode of King of The Hill, Nancy Gribble starts to lose her hair because she’s stressed out about her affair with John Redcorn. Of course on TV it’s funny, but losing your hair from stress is a real thing. Stress has been associated with a couple of different conditions that result in hair loss. One is called Alopecia Areata (AA), which is an auto immune disease that causes your body to attack it’s own hair follicles and stops hair growth. Another condition is called Telogen Effluvium, which can result in almost complete hair loss.
Hair loss from stress usually occurs over time. It’s not an immediate reaction or response to stress. So you don’t have to worry about your hair suddenly falling out because you’re stuck in traffic.
2: Eye Twitching
I have this issue from time to time, and never knew why until recently. Stress can cause muscle spasms throughout your body, but in the eyelid in particular. The bad part is that doctors aren’t really sure why the body responds to stress with eye twitching. If it’s just an occasional issue, then it’s probably not that big of a deal.
But if your eye is tweaking uncontrollably all the time like Twitch from Southpark, then you should see a doctor. A visit to the doctor might also be in order if the twitching starts to spread to other parts of your face. Sometimes eye twitching can get even worse if you have dry eyes. In that case, you can try using eye drops.
3: Stomach Problems
I listed this as stomach problems to avoid getting too graphic. But what I’m really talking about here is constipation and diarrhea (stress poop). It might just start out as seemingly innocent stomach aches. Then before you know it you’re afraid to leave the bathroom because you always have to go.
Your intestines are connected to your brain. Ever wonder why you get butterflies when you’re nervous or when you get a text message from your crush! The two systems are connected. When you’re stressed out, your intestines start to become more sensitive and contract more. The end result is irregularities in your bowel movements.
Nosebleeds are a mysterious phenomenon. Most people get them and have no clue why. I used to get them whenever I got really hot. Some people seem to get them when they’re nervous. And you can also get them when you’re stressed out.
One supposed explanation of why stress causes nosebleeds is because of the body’s increased blood pressure when stressed. It’s a good idea to keep your blood pressure normal by exercising regularly and eating healthy. This might help you stop getting frequent nosebleeds whenever you’re stressed out. You could also invest in these fancy smancy nosebleed stoppers.
5: Back Pain
Have you ever heard anyone call someone (not you of course, because you’re awesome) a pain in the ass? Well, it turns out they were close, but a little too low on the body. Stress can actually cause back pains.
The fight-or-flight adrenaline rush you get in stressful situations is nice when you’re running away from a vicious dog, but if you constantly have that feeling due to stress, it can be counterproductive. The fight or flight response causes your blood pressure to increase and your muscles to tighten up. When it’s going on for a long time, it can create muscle spasms and back pains. So the next time someone is stressing you out, tell them they’re a pain in your back, not your ass.
6: Dental Problems
I have a bad habit that a lot of you all probably share with me: teeth grinding. It’s my natural response to stressful situations, and something I’ve been trying to stop. It’s gotten better, but there’s room for improvement.
Clenching and grinding your teeth causes a ton of awful dental issues like pain in your jaw, cracked teeth, and general pain and discomfort in your mouth. Teeth grinding is especially bad because when you’re stressed out, you don’t even realize you’re doing it. And to make matters worse, you’re probably doing it in your sleep too. If your jaw always seems to hurt (especially when you wake up), it’s a sign you’re a fellow teeth grinder.
And apparently Bleeding Gums Murphy from the Simpsons was stressed out, because stress can also cause your gums to bleed.
7: Menstrual Cycle Confusion
For the ladies, stress can cause your menstrual cycle to go off track. So your period might come later than usual, or in some cases not at all. Stress affects so many bodily functions, and unfortunately your menstrual cycle is one of them.
When that time of the month does eventually come, stress can also make your life a little more painful with severe cramps.
8: Weird Dreams
Stress just can never leave you alone. Not only do you have to deal with it during the day while you’re awake, but it even works its way into your dreams!
In the book Dream On It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg talks about the meanings of dreams and what your body/mind is trying to tell you with certain dreams. An interesting point Lauri makes is that the stress we endure during the day follows us into our dreams.
It seems like a scary thought, but it’s really more weird than creepy. Check out our article on the most common stress induced dreams to learn just how weird the relationship between stress and dreaming is. Apparently if you’re dreaming about your house being burnt down, you really need to take a break because you’re way too stressed out.
9: Memory Loss
First stress takes your hair, then your sleep, and now your memory?
When you’re stressed out, the portion of your brain that controls your short term memory, hippocampus (no it’s not a college for hippos), opens the doors to the stress hormone cortisol. As a result, it gets difficult to remember things. I’m not saying that stress will cause you to completely forget everything, but chronic stress can temporarily affect your short term memory.
The fact that your mind is probably preoccupied with other things during stressful situations also plays a role. It’s kind of hard to focus on what’s being said in a boring work meeting when you’re stressed out about bills, health problems, and a dozen other things you’re going through.
10: Throwing Up
In addition to your hair, sleep, and memory, stress can also cause you to lose your lunch. Dry heaving and vomiting are very common reactions to stress and anxiety. In really bad cases, you can actually develop cyclic vomiting syndrome, which is just as bad as it sounds. You vomit on a regular basis, usually around the same time of the day.
Here’s an interesting fact. Back in 2008 when the country was going through financial woes, the former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson actually used to dry heave all the time because of all the stress he was under. He wrote about it all in his book, On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System. Billions of dollars of debt will do that to you I suppose.
Listen To Your Body!
Isn’t it weird how the body works? All of these seemingly separate issues can all stem from the same issue; Stress. If you’re having extreme cases of any of these symptoms, I’d suggest seeing a doctor. But you might be able to minimize or even completely eliminate them by learning how to manager your stress better.
Now if only there was some sort of website dedicated to stress management. Hmmmmmm.