When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.
Stress can make existing problems worse.2 In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain.3
Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking, and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain—high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude—is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example.4 Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk.