Stress Response: What Effect Does Stress Have on the Body?


Your hands start to feel clammy and sweaty. 

Beads of moisture form on your brow.

Your breath quickens, and you think that your heart is about to explode out of your chest.

There is even some numbness and tingling in your fingertips.

What’s happening is that your body is having a response to stress. Each time it happens, whatever you were doing stops and you are frozen with anxiety and stress. 

The good news?

If you know how stress affects your body, you can take more proactive steps to minimize it.

Why Your Body Responds to Stress

First off, let’s consider for a moment why your body responds to stress.

Over millions of years, the human body has developed responses to what it considers to be threats. These include physiological responses that you may not even realize are occurring until they happen.

For example: 

  • Pupil dilation

  • Sweat

  • Changes in heart and breathing rates

  • Numbness and tingling

Believe it or not, these are things that your body was designed to do whenever it perceived a danger or threat. 

Of course, nowadays we don’t have mammoths or saber-tooth tigers to worry about. However, there are still many things in this world that elicit a stress response.

Whatever the reasons behind your reactions, the key to understanding your stress response is that it’s a natural part of human physiology.

When Your Stress Response Becomes a Problem

An occasional exposure to stress is not necessarily bad for you. In fact, it can be helpful to know that your physiology is still working and capable of responding to stress.

The problem is when you are being constantly exposed to stress. Then, the danger and risk of harm to your body become more real.

Effects of Stress on the Cardiovascular System

A prime example is how stress damages your heart and cardiovascular system over time.  

That includes such physiological symptoms as: 

  • Higher blood pressure

  • Inflammation

  • Release of stress-related hormones

  • A possible link to Elevated cholesterol 

All these factors can cause you to have a heart attack or stroke. Thus, you can literally die from excessive stress!

Other Systems Affected by Stress

Other systems in your body that are impacted by prolonged exposure to stress include:

  • Liver

  • Stomach

  • Adrenal glands

  • Bowels

  • Nervous system

  • Reproductive systems (in both men and women)

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as muscle tension or joint pain

At its worst, stress can negatively impact all of the major systems in your body and wreak havoc on your health.

Why Stress Has Such an Impact

The reason why stress has such an impact on your body is that it knows that something is wrong.

Without you telling it what to do, your body is trying to compensate for the stress and anxiety that you are feeling. It does its best to make sure you are OK and safe.

However, it can’t keep this up forever. 

Really, your stress response was meant to occur for only a short period of time. Yet, if you have been exposed to chronic stress for months, or even years, then the effects become more pronounced.

Add to this alcohol or drugs—two common forms of coping with stress—and you have a recipe for disaster.

What Can You Do to Minimize the Effects of Stress?

There are certain physical things that you can do to minimize the effects of stress.  

For example: 

  • Not using alcohol or drugs to cope

  • Eating nutritious foods

  • Exercising

  • Getting enough sleep 

However, the key to solving the physical manifestations of stress actually rests in your mind.

You see, it is your thoughts and beliefs that cause you to feel stressed. In turn, your body responds in accordance to what you are feeling. Therefore, talking to someone who understands stress, such as a therapist, can be very helpful.


It’s important to know that you can’t escape stress. However, if you are exposed to stress all the time, it will have a very detrimental effect on your body. Ultimately, the solution is talking about your stress and getting help from an experienced professional.

To read more about Anxiety Treatment click here.