What are 5 Emotional Signs of Stress?

The saying is, “there is nothing guaranteed in life except death and taxes.” Well, stress should be on the list. Whether it is work, children, or bills, life is full of stress.  Learn what the 5 emotional signs of stress are and tips to help you de-stress

What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to a threat or demand. Even if the danger is not real, your body will react rapidly. The body’s defense is a “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”

Stress is not always a bad thing, and is your body’s way of protecting you. The stress response helps you stay alert, focused, and energetic. In an emergency, stress can save your life. Stress can give you the strength to defend yourself or help you avoid a car accident. 

Stress also helps you rise to challenges. During a presentation at work, stress keeps you on your toes. It enables you to focus during a test or in a game of chess. At some point, stress can start to affect your health, mood, and relationships.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, then it is crucial to stop. Stop whatever you are doing and bring your nervous system back in balance. You can improve your thoughts and feelings by knowing the signs and symptoms of chronic stress. 

What are the Negative Effects of Chronic Stress?

Your nervous system does not know the difference between emotional and physical threats. Stress over an argument, bills, and work deadlines can cause your body to react the same as a life or death situation. The more your body stays in the “fight or flight” mode, the harder it is to find a healthy balance. 

If you are easily stressed and spend most of the day stressed out, it can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress affects every system in the body. It suppresses your immune system, upsets the digestive system, and can lead to a stroke or heart attack. Chronic stress changes your brain and can lead to depression, anxiety, or more serious mental health issues. 

The Effects of Stress on Your Health

Stress can lead to a variety of health issues. It can also worsen existing health issues. These health issues can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep issues
  • Skin conditions
  • Digestive problems
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive issues
  • Reproductive issues

Stress not only affects physical health but mental health as well. But what are the 5 emotional signs of stress? Learn the signs that stress is taking its toll.

What Are 5 Emotional Signs of Stress?

When you stress out for long periods, you start exhibiting the emotional signs of stress. The feelings of stress can feed off each other, making you feel worse. When you know what 5 emotional signs of stress are, you can stop and find balance again. 


An estimated 40 million Americans are suffering from anxiety. Adding stress to already existing anxiety increases a person’s anxiety. It is common for those under chronic stress to develop anxiety from the pressure. 


Frustration comes from the feelings of a stressful situation. Not all stress leads to frustration, but chronic stress can. Not being able to control a situation or fix something can become overwhelming. And when it becomes too much, then frustration kicks in. And frustration leads to negative behaviors.


Anger can be an emotional sign of stress and can lead to high blood pressure and heart attacks. It can also lead to relationship issues. Some people react in anger without thinking. But the intensity of the anger will be based on how a person views what is happening. 


Sadness is a severe emotional sign of stress. A person can be so stressed out that all they can feel is sad. Sad that life isn’t going as planned. A sadness that they let everyone down. It is vital to seek treatment before the sadness turns to depression.


Many people become fearful when stress is high. We all know that fear is a product of being in danger. But, it can also be fearing messing up at work and being fearful of losing your job. Being afraid of losing your spouse due to the stress of a sick parent can also be scary. Fear can be life-altering unless you stop, relax, and find balance again. 

What Happens When Stress Is to Overwhelming?

Stress is dangerous because it sneaks up on you. You may not even notice how much it is affecting you. A little work stress, a little stress at home, is not a big deal. But, every day, a bit more stress gets added. And before you know it, the stress has become overwhelming. The physical and emotional effects of stress can cause serious health issues. 

Warning Signs That Stress Has Become Overwhelming

As stated, the effects of stress can harm the entire body. And the results can be long-lasting and require medical attention. Be aware of all the signs that stress has become overwhelming. 

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Constant worry
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus

Emotional Symptoms

  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Moody
  • Overwhelmed
  • Other mental health issues

Physical Symptoms

  • Body aches and pains
  • Stomach issues
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Low sex drive
  • Frequent colds

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Change in eating patterns
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Nervous habits
  • Angry outbursts
  • Use of drugs or alcohol

Stress at work is recognized worldwide as a major issue. If you have a high-stress job, it is vital to watch for the above signs of stress overload. 

First Responder and the Effects of Stress

According to a 2017 report by CareerCast, firefighters have the second most stressful job in America. And police officers have the fourth most stressful job. The chronic stress of first responders is the leading cause of death. The pressure can lead to heart disease, cancer, stroke, or depression. 

First responders not only run into fires, but they also respond to every accident. If the paramedics are on the scene, so are the firefighters. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Institute (NCBI) shows that accident scenes are more stressful than fighting fires. 

First responders love their job. They make lifetime friends and save people’s lives. But, they are always on duty. Their brains replay accident scenes and fires that didn’t end well. And they live with the fear that something can go wrong. 

5 Stressors First Responders Don’t Talk About

  1. The weight of responsibility is crushing. On the outside, a first responder looks calm and collected. But on the inside, the burden can be crushing them mentally. 
  2. They are not born knowing how to be a first responder. A person may love the thought of saving lives. But, it takes training to know how. Training never stops. There is always new technology to learn.
  3. The fear of failure is the biggest fear of first responders. They respond to emergencies with confidence. So the public views them as invincible. But, in the quiet moments, first responders fear the what if’s. Failure is their biggest fear.
  4. They know the risk of cancer is high. When things burn, they emit toxins. The toxins are present even after the fire is out. Firefighters are exposed to cancer-causing toxins daily. 
  5. First responders see the worse things imaginable. They prepare themself to see death, disfigurement, and sights the general public can’t imagine. The images begin to destroy them mentally. PTSD is high in first responders because of what they see. 

Even though it’s evident that first responders have high-stress jobs, it doesn’t diminish the stress level of another career. Many jobs and careers are stressful. How you handle stress is the biggest concern. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with it. Drugs and alcohol do not help. They only add stress and lead to addiction.

Stress and Addiction

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports in 2014, one in every 12 American adults suffered from addiction. Stress is a big reason people use substances like drugs and alcohol. But, they are a temporary relief and lead to substance use disorder and addiction. 

Stress is a leading cause of addiction. Stress and addiction feed off each other. And can cause problems at work and in relationships. Stress and addiction can also lead to other co-occurring mental and physical health problems. 

Co-occurring Stress and Addiction

Co-occurring mental disorders are common in addiction. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports, a third to half of the individuals with mental health issues battle addiction and vice versa. Self-medicating to cope with stress or other psychiatric disorders is risky. 

In 2018 9.2 million American adults suffered a co-occurring mental health disorder and addiction. It is so common therapists screen each individual for all co-occurring diseases and addiction.

Stats on Stress and Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) studied the effects of stress and addiction. In humans and animals, stress leads the brain to release a peptide. The increase of peptide causes a pattern of responses. Individuals with chronic stress are prone to using substances and addiction. 

  • Exposure to stress increases the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • People with opiate addiction and high levels of stress will continue to use it. 
  • Chronic stress can lead to using substances even if a person has never used it before.
  • Chronic stress can impair memory and cognitive function.
  • Stress can increase cravings for cocaine and alcohol. 
  • The lack of coping skills increases the chance of relapse. 

You need to have excellent coping skills for stress and addiction. Treatment for both stress and addiction is a great way to build healthy coping skills. But, there are things you can do outside of therapy to help cope with stress without turning to drugs and alcohol.

Tips for Coping With Stress

Get up and moving

Regular exercise can ease stress. It can stop negative thoughts and worries. Make it fun. Involve friends and family and play a game of touch football. Sweat the stress away.

Connect with others.

Suppose you are feeling overwhelmed by stress talk to someone. Talking about it takes away it’s power. Talking to a friend and seeing a smile, calms the nervous system. 

Engage your senses.

A fast way to relieve stress is by alerting another one of your senses. Maybe it is a happy song or the smell of fresh coffee. Everyone responds differently, so experiment to find what works. 


Stress is going to happen. But you can control how it affects you. Yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques activate relaxation responses. Learning to relax can reduce how you respond to stress.

Eat a healthy diet

Your mood is affected by the food you eat. When you are in a bad mood, stress is difficult to handle. A diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein can help cope with stress.

Get lots of rest.

A good night’s sleep is crucial to thinking and coping with the day. But, chronic stress can interfere with sleep. Using a combination of the above tips can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Treatment of Stress and Addiction

Stress has a strong role in addiction, so it essential for treatment to address stress management and addiction. Many therapy programs already involve stress management. Behavioral therapies focus on the treatment of both stress and addiction.

Behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you recognize behavior patterns and your response to situations. By understanding these patterns, you can make changes to correct the behaviors and responses. Changing behaviors is crucial for handling stress and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol

Support groups and 12-step groups are great for helping fight addiction. These groups hold you accountable for your actions and behaviors. At the same time, these groups decrease stress levels with human contact and fun activities. 

Stress and Addiction Treatment at Sana Lake Recovery Center

Has overwhelming stress in your life led you to use drugs and alcohol to cope? If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, we can help. Contact us today and get started on your path to a better life.