Any of the organs activated by the stress response can be damaged if the body’s mechanisms for ‘putting out the fire’ are exhausted.
The likelihood of this a happening will depend partly on the individual’s genetic susceptibility to the effects of stress and partly on whether any of his / her organs are already vulnerable.
For example, someone whose heart is already damaged through years of smoking is more likely to suffer a heart attack as a result of stress than someone with a perfectly healthy heart.
Health problems which may, at least in part, be triggered by stress include:
• Heart attacks and angina
• High blood pressure
• Gastric ulcers
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Recurrent infections
• Menstrual disturbance and fertility problems
• Muscular problems
• Tension headaches and migraines
• Anxiety disorder
• Substance abuse
In addition to the health problems associated with the stress response itself, there can also be problems caused by unhelpful methods of coping with stress such as comfort eating, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.