Stress Symptoms & Warning Signs

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

Because stress warning signs and symptoms can easily blend in with the lifestyle of a person without affecting them, stress can creep up on a person without any real notification. Oftentimes, an affected individual won't realize how seriously stress is impacting his or her quality of life and surrounding friends and family until it has been relieved, or until someone else points it out. Signs of stress are generally categorized as cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral. While the degree and symptom types affect everyone differently, below are some common indicators that an individual may be under extreme stress.


Cognitive stress symptom and warning signs appear when stress impacts the mind of an affected individual. They may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increase in forgetfulness or problems with memory
  • Increase difficulty in concentration and focus
  • Poor judgment and decision-making
  • Having a pessimistic and negative outlook on everything
  • Increase in anxiety and racing thoughts that won't go away
  • Constant worrying


Emotional symptoms and warning signs appear when stress affects a person psychologically. They may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased mood swings
  • Irritation at small things that normally do not aggravate you
  • Shorter tempers and increased agitation
  • Inability to relax or enjoy things you usually find pleasure in
  • Constant feeling of being overwhelmed
  • New sense of loneliness and isolation
  • General unhappiness, even depression


Physical symptoms and warning signs are usually an indicator that stress is impacting your physiological body in a negative way. They may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Development of aches and pains
  • Irregular bowel movements, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased nausea and/or dizziness
  • Development of chest pains and increased blood pressure
  • Decrease in libido, or sex drive
  • Frequent colds that do not seem to go away
  • Unexplained skin inflammation or rashes that can be itchy, similar to an allergic reaction


Behavioral symptoms and warning signs are usually an indicator that stress could be impacting your daily routine and the way you normally do things. They may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Change in eating habits, either eating very little or a lot
  • Change in sleeping habits, either too much, too little or not at all (insomnia)
  • Isolation from other human interaction
  • Procrastinating or neglecting duties and responsibilities
  • Need or dependency of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
  • Development of nervous habits, such as excessive pacing, nail biting or scratching

Another way to look for stress warning signs is through the way an individual responds to demanding events and schedules. Overly stressed individuals tend to respond to taxing situations in three common ways:

  • Angry or agitated response: This can often be accompanied by heated, overly emotional speech or physical action.
  • Withdrawn or depressed response: The individual may shut down, space out and seem apathetic toward the situation.
  • Paralyzed or "frozen" response: The individual will be full of tension and feel extremely agitated internally, and seems to be petrified toward the situation.

Either way, all these symptoms and warning signs can seriously lower the quality of life for an individual, and that is no way to live. It is important to seek a medical professional, or a psychologists' opinion if you are undergoing few or many of these warning signs. If left untreated, chronic stress can become a precedent for numerous deadly diseases later in life. Sometimes, the signs of stress are caused by other psychological or medical problems, and fixing these existing troubles may, in turn, help alleviate stress and increase quality of life.

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