Stress actually means the response to stressors in the environment of the individual like bereavement, retirement, loss of job, marital problems, financial difficulties, etc. (and not the outside pressures themselves which are the ‘Stressors’.)
Stress symptoms include headaches, back and neck pain, irritability, poor concentration, insomnia, impotence, irritable bowel symptoms, increasing use of cigarettes, alcohol, despondence , frequent sickness, etc.
Doctors suffer the consequences of chronic stress often and get in to the ‘Burn-out Syndrome’ characterised by being constantly moody, irritable, coming late for work, tending to neglect patients, depressed with thoughts that they are struck with a difficult profession for the rest of their life and so on. (See chapter on Burnout Syndrome)
Prolonged stress may lead to illnesses because of excessive catabolic effects of the major hormonal responses (a) Adrenaline causing repeated fight or flight response, and (b) Glucocortcoids leading to catabolic effects like breakdown of energy stores in the liver, and then breakdown of proteins, psychological disturbances, weakening of muscles and bone and ultimately leading to premature ageing. The stress related diseases include – systemic hypertension, impaired digestion, peptic ulceration, diabetes, suppressed growth leading to psychogenic dwarfism, impotence, irregular menses, chronic fatigue, and neuronal damage and ultimately death.