How Stress can affect your Brain

How stress can affect your Brain ?

50 common signs and symptoms of stress

  1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain
  2. Gritting, grinding teeth
  3. Stuttering or stammering
  4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
  5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
  6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
  7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping“ sounds
  8. Frequent blushing, sweating
  9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet
  10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing
  11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
  12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
  13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
  14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
  15. Excess belching, flatulence
  16. Constipation, diarrhea, loss of control
  17. Difficulty breathing, frequent sighing
  18. Sudden attacks of life threatening panic
  19. Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse
  20. Frequent urination
  21. Diminished sexual desire or performance
  22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
  23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility
  24. Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
  25. Increased or decreased appetite
  26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
  28. Trouble learning new information
  29. Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
  30. Difficulty in making decisions
  31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
  32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
  33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
  34. Little interest in appearance, punctuality
  35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
  36. Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
  37. Overreaction to petty annoyances
  38. Increased number of minor accidents
  39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior
  40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity
  41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
  42. Rapid or mumbled speech
  43. Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
  44. Problems in communication, sharing
  45. Social withdrawal and isolation
  46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
  47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
  48. Weight gain or loss without diet
  49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
  50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying


The World Health Organization calls stress « the health epidemic of the 21st century »

  • Stress and related illness, absenteeism and poor performance cost more than $300 billion a year in the US
  • According to the National Institute for occupational Safety and Health: workers who report being stressed incur healthcare costs that are 46% higher than their less stressed counterparts

  • In the US
    • Stress costs 42 billion USD (Kalia 2002) = 0,3% of GDP
    • Annual cost per mental health problem = 150 billion USD for enterprises ( Property and casualty insurance, 2002) = 1,3% of GDP
    • Stress costs 300 billion USD for enterprises absenteeism, turn-over, productivity loss (American Institute of Stress, 2006) = 2,6% of GDP

  • In Europe:
    • Across the EU, between 50 and 60 per cent of all lost working days are related to stress, according to the European Commission. And the impact on the region’s economies is alarming.
    • In France, the cost is around three billion euros a year
    • In the UK, close to 10 million working days are lost due to anxiety, stress and depression.
    • Overall, the cost to the EU is estimated at 4% of GDP.

EU-OSHA1 recently unveiled the results of Europe’s biggest workplace health and safety study, showing that 79 per cent of managers have concerns about stress at work, but only 26 per cent of EU organizations have measures in place to deal with the problem.

The European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, carried out across the 27 EU countries plus Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, also shows 42 per cent of companies consider psychosocial risks harder to deal with, due to the sensitivity of the issues and lack of awareness.

Research findings

Relationship between Stress and Brain has been a major field of both experimental and clinical research for many years.2

1964-1976 The focus was on the role of Corticosteroids and understanding how they act in the Brain and pituitary gland.

1977-1989 The trend in research moved to Steroids, neuropeptides and the Brain. Many selective glucocorticoids were discovered and their role in nociception highlighted.

1990-2000 The implication of Hormones on Brain function was demonstrated through various research lines: electrophysiology, behaviour ( spatial learning and memory), central cardiovascular regulation, serotonin and programming of the stress system by genotype and early life events. These studies have been demonstrating a critical role for corticosterone in cognitive aging.

SBHI Strategy

Be Smart: SBHI's ambition is to promote research on the impact of Stress on Cognition
  • Identify the best research teams involved in this field
  • Develop and promote the results of these research teams on cognition
  • Find and develop a new, more appropriate, cognitive measurement if needed
Be Effective: always Monitoring and Evaluating the actions
  • Measure the efficacy of what is done
  • Evaluate any new cognitive measurement which could allow a good monitoring and follow up of the cognitive state as a mirror of Brain Health
Be Simple: Education and Advocacy on Brain Health
  • Inform on the existing data available regarding the relationship between stress and Brain Health
  • Translate the latest research findings into easy-to-understand and practical information with simple tips when appropriate
Be Heard: ongoing communication is needed
  • Disseminate tools to existing programmes and initiatives dedicated to Brain Health with a special focus on Stress & Cognition
  • Contribute to raise awareness of the impact of stress on Brain Health
  • Create and foster links, at the international level, to mobilize more Ambassadors

What can you do?

Various ways to reduce stress


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