Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but when the stressful days start to stretch into weeks, the effects of your anxiety really start to kick in. There are a number of
weird things that can happen to you if you've been stressed long-term, beyond just sleep issues or feeling worried all day. Stress affects our whole bodies, and you might find that your normal habits feel off when there's a lot on your mind.
"Stress affects the body in a variety of ways," says
psychologist Dorian Crawford, PsyD over email. "It can create issues in most spheres of life, including cognition, health, your social life and emotional well-being. The longer you are under stress, the more extreme the toll it will take. This is because the stress hormone cortisol puts the body into a fight or flight mode and interacts with all sorts of systems, from blood sugar to sex drive."
Here are nine weird things that can happen to you if you've been stressed for a week or more. If you're experiencing these issues, it's best to take the time to participate in some stress-relieving activities or talk to a professional who can help eliminate these side effects of stress.
It's no coincidence that a donut sounds particularly appealing during times of stress. "You crave high fat, high sugar, high satiety foods," says
psychologist Melanie Greenberg, PhD over email. "Chronic stress makes your body want to get extra fuel to keep you going." In times of scarcity of food, this was helpful to keep you energized until your next meal.
You Obsess Over Little Details
Stress might lead you to overthink something you wouldn't have otherwise. "You might get hyper-focused on a problem, keep ruminating about it, and avoid seeing the bigger picture," says Greenberg. "Anxiety narrows our attention on the source of threat and makes us hyper-vigilant."
When you're stressed out for a long period of time, it affects your sleep, and sleep deprivation can lead to some cognitive and motor impairment
that might even rival the effects of alcohol intoxication, according to research from the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "If you have been stressed for a week or more, your thinking, judgment and coordination might be off, similar to how you might feel if you have been drinking, making your more accident prone," says psychologist Kimber Shelton, PhD over email.
Sex Sounds Less Appealing
Prolonged stress can decrease your libido, making sex sound like a chore more than a fun activity. "Stress can trigger things to go haywire with your hormones," says Crawford. "Some effects could be a delayed period or a change in your sex drive." But the opposite is possible as well. "Some people may have zero interest in intimacy, and others might find that the urge to engage in soothing and physically energetic sexual activity makes an unexpected appearance," she says.
You Experience Bathroom Issues
As if you needed to add more to your list of problems, stress is highly correlated with gastrointestinal issues. "Prolonged and chronic stress can lead to stomach ulcers and other health issues," says Shelton. "Within a week or more of stress, you might notice having more bowel movements, diarrhea, or constipation."
Stress is hard on the body, and you can feel exhausted as a result. "You might become edgy or fatigued easily, like you are slogging through emotional sludge, inattentive to your interactions or the needs of others," says Crawford. "If the stress goes on for too long, it can even turn into a type of depression related to stress at hand. It's always best to talk to a professional if you are worried that is happening."
You Get Random Boosts Of Energy
You might find yourself with a random burst of energy, but don't get too excited — this is usually followed by a crash at the end. "That’s because the parasympathetic nervous system can rebound when your stress response has been activated for too long," says Greenberg. "This lowers blood pressure."
Even if you're not angry or upset, stress can lead you to become snappy or irritable. "The fight part of the fight or flight response can turn into anger and hostility when you get frustrated," says Greenberg.
You Might Spill Your Guts To Strangers
If you find yourself telling your life story to the barista at Starbucks, you have stress to blame. "You may end up spilling your guts to somebody you barely know as the release valve forces you to let off steam," says Crawford. "Although it might feel good in the moment, be careful it doesn't alienate a special or important person in your life. It's best to try to reach out to a trusted friend or therapist to process the stress."