An insatiable appetite, profuse sweating, a racing heart and high blood pressure — these are just a few of the well-known physical manifestations of stress in our everyday lives. Beyond those obvious symptoms, however, lie much stranger things.

Gallows Humor

Sometimes when we get stressed, we make jokes about terrible things, like disease or other life-threatening situations. It’s called gallows humor, and it may not be a bad thing — as the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. The Association for Psychological Science says being able to laugh during tough times “can reduce the negative emotions surrounding a stressful event.” The coping mechanism changes a person’s perspective “to see something that is potentially threatening as less threatening,” University of North Carolina psychology professor Arnie Cann told the group. “From a very psychological level, just being able to use humor to change the way you interpret a situation — so it doesn’t seem quite as threatening — seems very important.”

Hair Loss

There are actually three different ways stress can contribute to hair loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. In some cases, stress can force hair follicles into a resting phase, leading to them falling out later on while combing or washing. There is also a condition called alopecia in which different factors, one of which is stress, cause the body’s immune system to attack hair follicles.

A more manual form of hair loss comes when someone under stress has an urge to pull out hair, which could be on the scalp, the eyebrows or other body parts. That condition is called trichotillomania.

Vivid Or Bad Dreams

Stress creeps into our beds with us at night. Dr. Oz notes that the most common stress dreams involve missing a bus, having a car stolen, being hit by a tidal wave, getting lost and experiencing a house fire.

There are also sleep-related hallucinations, which happen in the place between waking and sleeping. The American Sleep Association says during the hallucinations, a person may be fully conscious but completely immobile due to sleep paralysis. When they occur as the sleeper is waking up, the hallucinations are commonly “the sensation of falling and the feeling of a presence in the room.”


A nervous or upset stomach is common for people with anxiety. In addition stress can trigger Irritable Bowel Syndrome. According to CNN, stress levels and the digestive system are linked. The chemical serotonin affects the brain differently when under stress, but that chemical also interacts with the stomach and intestines in different ways.

Skin Irritations

Stress or tension can cause a rash or hives to develop, sometimes coming with itchiness or a stinging sensation. The swelling and bumps could be of various sizes, and could cause even more discomfort when touched. Skin irritations are most dangerous when the swelling occurs in places that could block the airway, like the tongue or throat.

Muffled Hearing Or Tunnel Vision

The New York State Office of Mental Health lists both muffled hearing and tunnel vision as common reactions to stress. There are actually many sensory side effects of stress, including light sensitivity and a feeling of being uncoordinated or disoriented.