Its true that symptoms of stress are not limited to psychological reactions such as a heightened sense of nervousness. It can also produce very real physical responses. Common symptoms of stress include headaches, hand tremor and digestive upsets and it is probably true to say that nearly everyone has experienced butterflies in the stomach at some time in their lives.
Rapid heartbeat, muscular aches and pains - especially in the neck and back area - raised blood pressure, grinding teeth and migraines can all be symptoms of stress.
Changes in eating and sleeping habits can also be an indication that someone is under pressure. This is especially true if insomnia becomes a regular occurrence but, as depression can be a feature of this condition, sometimes sleeping longer and heavier than usual can also be a sign. Fatigue, probably best defined as the kind of tiredness that cannot be relived no matter how long someone rests, is a warning that all is not well and needs to be checked out with a doctor if it persists.
Mental well-being can also suffer. As well as experiencing frustration, anxiety and worry, there can be mood swings with periods of self-doubt alternating with feelings of anger and resentment. A British government research study found that most of the 12 million adults who consulted their GP each year about mental health problems complained of complaints related to this condition.
In addition there may be long-term health implications, as medical experts believe that tension can lower our natural immunity to many conditions, making sufferers more susceptible to illness. The mental health charity Mind estimates that this is the beginning of 80 per cent of modern diseases.
While atherosclerosis (hardening or narrowing of the arteries) and high cholesterol levels are usually the underlying cause responsible for heart disease, persistent mental strain can also be a factor by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.