9 Weird Things That Stress Can Do To Your Body

Gray hair, the urge to pee, a sharpened sense of smell, and many more

Ashley Abramson
Elemental

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Photo: Werayuth Tessrimuang/EyeEm/Getty Images

IfIf you’ve ever experienced a tension headache after a long week at work, then you’ve had a glimpse of the physical effects of stress on your body. But beyond that headache, along with the classic racing heart and strained muscles, stress can cause some lesser-known, even peculiar, symptoms.

The stress doesn’t have to be major to do it: Frederick Chen, MD, chief of family medicine at Harborview Medical Center and professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, says even small stressors — aggravating emails, subtweets — have an effect.

“The small stresses of everyday life can cause a daily, low-level stress that activates stress hormones in the body, which ultimately affects how people feel,” he says. “The interesting thing is that we don’t always know why people respond in the way they do.”

Often, a long-term build up of these minor stresses — when the body doesn’t go back to “normal” — causes people to experience weird symptoms. “Acute stress tends not to have an effect on health,” says Sharon Bergquist, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. “It’s the activation of chronic stress…

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Ashley Abramson
Elemental

Writer-mom hybrid. Health & psychology stories in NYT, WaPo, Allure, Real Simple, & more.