Some of the health effects of stress are the same for men and women. For example, stress can cause trouble sleeping and weaker immune systems. But there are other ways that stress affects women:
1. Headaches and migraines. When you are stressed, your muscles tense up. Long-term tension can lead to headache, migraine, and general body aches and pains. Tension-type headaches are common in women.
2. Depression and anxiety. Women are almost twice as likely as men to have symptoms of depression. Women are more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Research suggests that women may feel the symptoms of stress more or get more of the symptoms of stress than men. This can raise their risk of depression and anxiety.
3. Heart problems. High stress levels can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, high blood pressure can cause serious health problems, such as stroke and heart attacks. Younger women with a history of heart problems especially may be at risk of the negative effects of stress on the heart.
4. Upset stomach. Short-term stress can cause stomach issues such as diarrhea or vomiting. Long-term stress can lead to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that is twice as common in women as in men. Stress can make IBS symptoms such as gas and bloating worse.
5. Obesity. The link between stress and weight gain is stronger for women than for men. Stress increases the amount of a hormone in your body called cortisol, which can lead to overeating and cause your body to store fat.
6. Problems getting pregnant. Women with higher levels of stress are more likely to have problems getting pregnant than women with lower levels of stress. Also, not being able to get pregnant when you want to can be a source of stress.
7.Menstrual cycle problems. Women who experience chronic or long-term stress may have more severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms or irregular periods. Some studies link past abuse or trauma to more severe PMS.
8. Decreased sex drive. Women with long-term stress may take longer to get aroused and may have less sex drive than women with lower levels of stress. While not surprising, at least one study found that women with higher stress levels were more distracted during sex than other women.
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Reprinted from the Office of Women's Health - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services