5 Ways Chronic Stress Impacts Our Mental Health

May 11, 2016
Tagged with: 5 Ways Chronic Stress Impacts Our Mental Health


Stress is one condition that most people experience, yet hesitate to accept. It may persist either for a short time or affect your overall mental health, advancing to critical mental illness. This condition can be experienced during an overwhelming or emotionally-charged situation that leads to biochemical, physiological in the brain and behavioral changes in the patient. These changes impact your personality and approach towards life.

When you’re in an unexpected stressful situation, like a car accident or a harsh confrontation, you can feel angry, irritable, anxious, and tensed. This is known as acute stress, and because it lasts for a short period of time, it does not cause extensive damage to your mental health. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is a prolonged disorder that affects you with every recurring emotional incident. A person under chronic stress finds it difficult to overcome these incidents, and becomes susceptible to severe mental illness.

There is no single cause for mental disorders and they can be aftereffects of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Substance abuse is also responsible for mental disorders. It is difficult to detect these disorders among people who show only one or two symptoms. If a person is troubled with several of them and is facing problems in leading an active life, then he/she should consult a mental health professional at the earliest.

Here are a few ways in which chronic stress impacts our mental state:

1. Stress Leads to Sleep Disorder

Chronic stress leads to sleep problems and is commonly diagnosed in patients suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those complaining of frequent sleep disruptions often have negative thinking and emotional vulnerability. Instability in thoughts can be primarily because of stress. Also, trouble while sleeping due to nightmares may be associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is advisable to get a good night’s sleep as it works best for reviving the mental and emotional health of a person.


2. Stressful Lifestyle Can Cause Prenatal Damage to Brain

Mental disorders like autism occur due to underdevelopment of the brain. Autism Spectrum Syndrome (ASD) can be detected among children up to three years of age, with the most prevalent symptoms being exhibited in 2-3-year-old children. ASD can be loosely associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. There can be multiple reasons for genetic mutation in the brain that can cause autism. Loss of oxygen supply to the brain during childbirth gives way to complications. Pregnant women can avoid chances of complications by leading a healthy and stress-free lifestyle.

3. Stress Activates Genetic Ailments

Mental ailments running in the family can be passed on to children. Mental disorders develop due to genes along with other factors, like stress, abuse, or a traumatic incident. If your genes are predisposed to certain illnesses, they can initiate disorders in your mind and body. Psychiatric disorders including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia are known to have potential genetic roots.

There are multiple myths attached to mental disorders that delay the patient’s treatment. Often, families believe that children succumb to a mental disorder from eating habits and watching television. These reasons do not hold credibility, as it is proven that disorders like ADHD and autism are genetic and can develop in early childhood.

4. Mental Disorders at an Early Age

Infection in the brain caused by certain bacteria increases the chances of mental ailments. Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder (PANDA), associated with the Streptococcus bacteria, has been found to be responsible for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other mental illnesses in 3 – 14 year old children. This disease starts with extreme temper tantrums with a sudden onset of OCD among children who are normally emotionally-balanced, independent, and socially-amicable. They suffer from frequent panic attacks, unusual anxieties, food avoidance, anorexia, and experience eating restrictions.

5. Stress Can Wreak Havoc on the Road

Accidents causing head traumas, like concussions and skull fracture, can lead to mental disorders. Injuries to the skull increase the risk of developing mental disorders. A study published by The American Journal of Psychiatry explores the relationship between head injury and subsequent psychiatric disorders. The results highlighted that patients with head injuries are at a high risk of developing schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and organic mental disorders.

Head injuries can rupture certain areas of the skull and the brain, impacting the functionality of that region. For instance, concussions affect the neurotransmitters responsible for communication within the nervous system. As a result, the patient can develop mental disorders after the injury. Accidents involving head trauma may also affect the patient’s psyche and lead to depression or anxiety.

It is important to consult a mental health professional if you are facing high stress that interferes with your daily-life activities. Chronic stress can be treated with appropriate medication, behavioral change, and therapy, if detected at an early stage. Managing stress is crucial for better mental and physical health. The first step towards stress management is acknowledging the problem and emphasizing on changing behavior. Eating a healthy diet and getting 7-8 hours of sleep in a day may be beneficial. Additionally, ensure that you increase physical activity to secrete endorphins that treat mild forms of depression and anxiety.




Author: Swati Kapoor

  • bobl07

    This is such a important issue considering we are all under some type of stress.
    I think your comments about proper sleeping and eating are very important. It’s interesting that as busy and active as we are sometimes food and sleep seem go by the waste.