What are the signs of stress? 

We all experience stress differently in different situations. Sometimes you might be able to tell right away when you’re feeling under stress, but other times you might keep going without recognising the signs. Stress can affect you both emotionally and physically, and it can affect the way you behave. 

“My head is tight and all my thoughts are whizzing round in different directions and I can’t catch them.” 

How you might feel 

  • Irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up 
  • Overburdened 
  • Anxious, nervous or afraid 
  • Like your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off 
  • Unable to enjoy yourself 
  • Depressed 
  • Uninterested in life 
  • Like you’ve lost your sense of humour 
  • A sense of dread 
  • Worried about your health 
  • Neglected or lonely 

Some people who experience severe stress can sometimes have suicidal feelings. (See our pages on how to cope with suicidal feelings for more information.)

How you might behave 

  • Finding it hard to make decisions
  • Constantly worrying
  • Avoiding situations that are troubling you
  • Snapping at people
  • Biting your nails
  • Picking at your skin
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual
  • Restless, like you can’t sit still
  • Being tearful or crying 

How you might be physically affected 

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilating 
  • You might have a panic attack 
  • Muscle tension 
  • Blurred eyesight or sore eyes 
  • Problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or having nightmares 
  • Sexual problems, such as losing interest in sex or being unable to enjoy sex 
  • Tired all the time 
  • Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw 
  • Headaches 
  • Chest pains 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Indigestion or heartburn 
  • Constipation or diarrhoea 
  • Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting.  

“[It feels like] the world is closing in on me, I can’t breathe and I’m running out of time.” 

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