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Symptoms of stress

Stress symptoms

There are three main types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.

Each type of stress affects your mind, body, thoughts, and behaviours slightly differently. This page discusses these differences.

If you recognise the symptoms we explore, speak to your doctor. The doctor help you get the right support to feel better.

Read on to learn about the symptoms of each type of stress.

Acute stress

If you are dealing with a challenging situation, you may have an acute stress response. We discuss how acute stress affects your mind and body below.

Psychological symptoms

Acute stress can cause emotional distress such as:

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • low mood

Physical symptoms

Acute stress affects your body too. It may cause the following physical symptoms:

  • muscle tension
  • headache
  • back pain
  • jaw pain
  • heartburn
  • tummy upset

Episodic acute stress

If you experience acute stress often, you may have episodic acute stress. Let’s explore the physical and psychological effects this may have.

Psychological symptoms

Episodic acute stress may make you feel like nothing ever goes right for you. You may find life chaotic or overwhelming. You regularly feel under pressure and on edge. This exhausts you.

Over time, feeling this way may affect how you behave towards others. Feeling irritable may lead you to become unintentionally hostile. This may cause relationship problems.

Physical symptoms

If you have episodic acute stress, you frequently experience the physical symptoms of acute stress listed above. Over time you may also develop:

  • frequent, long-lasting headaches or migraines
  • digestive problems
  • high blood pressure


Chronic stress

If you experience long-term emotional pressure, you may have ongoing stress. This is called chronic stress.

Psychological symptoms

Chronic stress may make you feel:

  • irritable
  • exhausted
  • unable to concentrate
  • like your thoughts are racing
  • a loss of control
  • low

Chronic stress may also increase your risk of other mental health problems. For example, depression or anxiety.

Physical symptoms

Chronic stress can affect your body in a number of ways. Long periods of chronic stress may:

  • reduce your sex drive
  • change your appetite
  • give you tummy upset
  • cause headaches or migraines
  • raise your blood pressure
  • irritate your skin
  • make you more prone to infections
  • increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes

Are you feeling stressed? Complete a self-assessment for advice.