Effects of Chronic Stress on Your Health

Your body’s fight or flight response to stress was designed to quickly mitigate any potential damage imposed by short term (acute) injury or illnesses. This can include physical illness or psychosocial problems such as poverty, job loss, or the death of a loved one.

Your immune system responds by increasing the production of disease fighting white blood cells and releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. Once the threat has been resolved, your immune system returns to its baseline.

When chronic stress occurs, the immune system never returns to baseline but stays at the higher stimulated level. Much like revving a car and keeping your foot on the gas, an overstimulated immune system is not sustainable and will result in problems. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of chronic, prolonged stress on one’s overall health…


People who are exposed to unremitting stress on a continuous basis may develop anxiety or panic attacks. The release of stress hormones results in body systems being placed in high alert mode, ready to fight for your life or flee from danger.  Your heart and breathing rate increases as do your energy levels and alertness. In situations of chronic stress your stress response never rests, resulting in exaggerated responses to seemingly minor stressors.

Sometimes all it takes is the mere thought of your situation to bring on anxiety or a full blown panic attack. When anxiety becomes out of control and affects your ability to function on a day to day level, it’s time to seek medical help. The good news is that it is treatable, with both medication and counselling.

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Debbie McGauran

Debbie has been a registered nurse for over 25 years with experience in geriatrics, medicine, surgery and mental health. For the past four years, she has practiced as a crisis nurse in the ER. Debbie lives on a farm with her family, two dogs, a cat, and four horses.