Emotional stress, along with unhealthy habits—like smoking and overuse of alcohol and caffeine that often develop in response to stress—will ultimately affect your physical health and appearance.

If you don't get to the root of the problem and find a solution? Frown lines, tired eyes, an overall sense of fatigue, poor eating habits, weight gain or weight loss, poor posture and body tension, and skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rashes are all potential manifestations of unmanaged stress.

1. Wrinkles and Fine Lines

Frown lines and crows feet can be a direct result of constant worrying or anger, negative thinking, stress headaches, and other stress-related ailments. They are caused by the constant muscle contraction and release around your eyes and eyebrows that occurs with emotional expression.

2. Weary, Fatigued Skin

Fatigue and the physical symptoms that accompany it—tired eyes, sallow skin, and droopy shoulders—occurs with ongoing loss of sleep and fitful sleep. It can also result from chronic use of sleeping aids and sedatives. Additionally, when you become agitated or experience stress, your body produces excess amounts of the "stress hormone" cortisol, which is linked directly to general fatigue and medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.

3. Weight Fluctuations

Poor choices when it comes to your diet can lead to weight gain, weight loss, dehydration, and a deficiency of essential nutrients. All of these conditions can have a dramatic effect, not only on your weight but on other aspects of your well-being and appearance. Nutrient deficiencies are often identified by changes in the skin, hair, and nails.

4. Poor Posture

Stress that causes body tension can lead to head, neck, shoulder, and back pain that, in turn, can throw off your balance and posture. Stress-related pain can also prevent you from getting enough exercise and contribute to accidents.

5. Skin Eruptions

In addition to exacerbating skin conditions you may already have, such as acne, eczema, or rosacea, stress can sometimes result in itching, hives, and rashes that appear to have no other cause. For some people, hair loss is another cosmetic insult that may be directly related to stress levels.

Reduce Stress to Improve Your Appearance

While health and medical professionals such as dermatologists, dietitians, and orthopaedic specialists can treat the symptoms that affect your appearance, Beverly Hills psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, points out that there are some good preventative measures you can take as well. "Learning new ways to handle stressful situations can help you get to the root of the problem, reduce symptoms, and prevent these outwards signs of inner stress from developing in the future," she says.

"Psychotherapy, along with mind-body exercises such as yoga, t'ai chi, and meditation, are all tools that can help you change perspective, work through emotional roadblocks, and develop coping skills to reduce stress and its effects."

Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, reviewed this article.



American Academy of Dermatology: Stress and Skin

Harvard Medical School: Mind-Body Connection May Extend to Skin

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory: Cortisol Sensor for Soldier Stress and Fatigue Monitoring

Northwestern University: Cortisol Secretion and Fatigue: Associations in a Community Based Cohort