Does Stress Cause Sickness?

Just like everyone on campus right now, not only am I stressed out, but also I am sick. I noticed that within the past week I have been more stressed out due to exams or quizzes and that my cold has been getting worse and worse as well. From this, I began to wonder if stress can cause you to get sick.


Stress can have many effects on the body, emotionally and physically. Emotionally stress can cause you to avoid others, have low self esteem and have difficulty relaxing. Physically stress can cause you to have headaches, upset stomach and experience colds or infections. From this article, it is easy to see that stress can cause you to get sick. When we are sick we go through most of these symptoms and we never seem to connect the two together because we blame it on everyone else by saying “my roommate is sick” or “everyone on campus is sick.” It is hard to deny it because everyone on campus has some type of illness right now.


According to Dr. Mercola, stress can deteriorate your immune system, thus making it easier for you to get sick. From a study at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers were able to determine that chronic stress makes your immune system less sensitive to a hormone called cortisol, making your body more susceptible to cold and flu viruses. Cortisol is a stress releasing hormone in your body that allows your body to fight or flee the stress you are feeling. Emotional stressors can lead to coughing, sneezing, and other cold like symptoms.


However that is not the only thing  that can lead you to get sick. A deficiency in Vitamin D, can make you get sick as well. You can catch colds from another person and by touching infected objects, such as towels, doorknobs and  phones. These things explain why we get colds at points in life when we are not stressed out. Sometimes it could just be our allergies that are making us sick.

From this video we can see how stress can affect our bodies. We can go into psychogenic fever. This is when your body temperature heats up your muscles in case you need to flee in a stressful situation. The video also talks about cortisol and what happens if it stops  working. When cortisol tops working, inflammation begins making us susceptible to heart disease, obesity, and it makes us experience things like anxiety or depression. Too much stress can also lead to the destruction of your DNA. Telomeres are on the tips of your DNA making your DNA stay together so when they replicate they get smaller and smaller until the point where they are no longer there. As the video continues it tell you how to combat stress effectively and the best way is to be socially connected. I agree with this video because I notice that if I express my stress with my family or friends they can help get through whatever I need help going through. In the long run, if you get stressed out talk to someone to make things a little better, you never know that could save you from getting a cold.


Home Alone Picture is from here.

The sick puppy picture I got from here.

The healthy life picture is from here.

I got the video from here.

7 thoughts on “Does Stress Cause Sickness?

  1. Jillian Nicole Beitter

    The first thing that came to my mind when I read your blog title was me! I’d like to take a slightly different approach to your topic though. When I’m stressed, I often find myself biting my nails (a horrible habit I know). It gets to the point where I don’t even realize I’m doing it. What I don’t realize either is the amount of germs I’m probably absorbing at that very minute. Especially in times when so many people are sick on campus, I’m just increasing my risk of getting sick. Although side effects don’t show up as fast, there still seems to be a correlation between the two. Here’s another example, just the other day I was stressing out over the amount of work I’d have to do and the thought of my parents leaving to head back home. All that stress built up was giving me the worst possible headache. A headache so bad that caused me to feel extremely nauseous. The stress was essentially making me sick to my stomach. It’s unfortunate that so many people (like me) let get stress get to them. Here are some tips for managing stress:

  2. Lydia A Chelli

    One of the third party variables that affects stress and sickness is sleep. Our bodies need rest in order to fight the bacteria and germs invading our immune system. I recently listened to a representative from University Health Services and she mentioned that they provide sleep kits in order to inform students on the importance of sleep and give us tips to improve our habits. On their website, , anyone can see more information that is available to us about this subject which can ultimately improve our health and reduce stress in and outside of the classroom.

  3. Molly Samantha Arnay

    I’m always interested in the connection of the mind and body. It’s odd because I always thought that everyone comes to penn state in the fall and gets sick because of all the new germs but I never realized the stress levels here are insane and that might have something to do with it! I’d be interested to see the biology behind why stress deteriorates your immune system? This article delves into between your mind and body and why this might occur!

  4. Jessy Severino

    I guess I’m not the only one who’s gotten sick recently. Apparently there was a virus going around and a lot of people were getting sick. Although your post raises a good correlation and it is possible that it can also be do to reverse causation because if you get sick you can become stressed out because it forces you to cut back on the activities that you do daily and also if you are stressed like you mentioned you’re immune system isn’t as up to par as it should be; also when were stressed our moods changes and we can even become depressed here is an pretty cool article about the correlation between depression and physical illness. have

  5. Jessica Heckler

    The Penn State Plague is upon us and this is the perfect blog post to discuss it! Personally, I think another factor that adds to my sub par immune system work right now is my lack of sleep. Not only am I stressing about school and extracurriculars, but all of the stress and schoolwork is keeping me up late at night and then I am forced to wake up for my early 8am class. Without the proper amount of sleep, which I am sure no one is getting at this point in the semester, our bodies don’t have time to recharge and we become more susceptible to colds and flus. At least, that is what I grew up hearing from my parents, but I’m sure there is some scientific truth behind this. So, I do believe that stress might play a role in making us sick, but I don’t think it is the only think that causes this problem during this time of the year!

  6. Trevor Dennehy

    As a chronic worrier, I always seem to get sick as well. I always find myself stressed by assignments and what not, and surely enough, I would say that I get a cold probably 5 times a year. Apparently, there are other health related problems that can develop fro stress, such as Heart Disease, Asthma, and Obesity. This article details the possible problems inherent in stress, as well as possible ways to avoid them.

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