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Stress that is not controlled and continues for a long period of time can cause a number of psychological and physical symptoms.
Psychological symptoms of stress can include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of confidence
- Difficulty relaxing
- Difficulty with decision making
Physical symptoms of stress can include:
- Muscle tension and pain
- Low energy
- Changes in appetite
- Decreased sexual function
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Long term, uncontrolled stress is associated with the development of a number of different medical conditions. Primarily these occur as the result of biochemical imbalances that can weaken the immune system and over-stimulate the part of the nervous system that regulates heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.
Medical conditions that can occur as a result of long term stress include:
- Hair loss (alopecia)
- Heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal problems (eg: indigestion, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome)
- Worsening skin conditions (eg: dermatitis, eczema)
- High blood pressure
- Recurrent colds and 'flu.
If it is suspected that stress is the cause for psychological or physical illness, a doctor should be consulted. The doctor will rule out any physical or mental illness that may be the cause of the symptoms. The doctor will discuss the patient's history and circumstances, including identification of any stressors that may be present in the person's life. The doctor will try to ascertain the level of stress the person is experiencing and their ability to deal with the stress.
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