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Emotional Signs of Stress

By: Libby Pelham BA - Updated: 30 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Stress Emotions Emotional Stress

Stress is something almost all of us have to deal with at some time in our lives. Some of us learn to live relatively stress free lives while others must face stress each and every day. Stress can affect our physical health but it can also have an affect on our emotional health.


Anger is one of the big signs of stress. It is our mental way of lashing back at the situations with which we cannot mentally handle. The anger can come as an outburst or as a general irritability. Hostility may be directed at the source of our stress – our boss, our spouse, or even our children.

Jealousy, often referred to as the green-eyed monster, is another sign of emotional stress that is similar to anger. Stress can cause a person to think their spouse is cheating on them, even when it is not the case. Impatience is another symptom that may be brought about by too much stress. Someone who formerly was calm with others may suddenly become irritated and hurried when under a large amount of stress. They may also become overly critical of others. Instead of focusing on the positive, stress often makes us focus on the negative and makes us want to try to change things of which we have no control.


The opposite of anger is depression. While many people get aggressively angry when under stress, some individuals simply shut down. This may be their initial reaction or it may come after periods of anger, which produce no results. Depressed people often withdraw from others, appear restless or anxious, and can exhibit a complete lack of interest in anything.

Crying can also be a sign of depression due to stress. Crying spells result when someone is so overwhelmed with a situation or just life in general. Someone who is under a tremendous amount of stress may be self-depreciating, feeling that they or their lives no longer hold much value. Stress can reduce your sense of self-esteem until you feel like a complete failure.

Other Emotions Associated with Stress

Stress can also cause people to have diminished initiative in things they formerly enjoyed. They may see everything in a negative way due to decreased perception caused by stress. They may also show physical symptoms due to the emotional stress such as nightmares, insomnia, or changes in eating habits (either increased or decreased).

Above all else, too much stress may cause confusion. You are often confused about situations, which you once felt you understood, but you may also feel confused about your own emotions and actions. Just because pressure and tension is causing you to react with a non-typical emotion, such as anger, does not mean you understand why you are acting this way. You may not recognise “you” anymore.

Many people can identify emotional signs of stress in themselves, noticing that they are crying more than usual, or more hostile than usual. In some cases, people can step back, realise they need help, and take the initiative to help themselves. But in some cases, especially when people are depressed due to stress, they may not have the gumption or will power to be able to look for or ask for help.

If you know someone that is exhibiting unusual emotional signs of stress, talk to them. Sometimes simply talking about the problems causing the stress is enough to help. If that does not seem to help, try introducing stress management techniques. Ask them to join a yoga class with you, purchase a guided meditation CD, or buy them a book on deep breathing techniques.

If the stress has gone on too long and done too much damage, counselling may be the final answer. Be sure to let your loved one know that there is no shame in asking for help when feeling overwhelmed by life.

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